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New York 'fully prepared' to handle Ebola case

25 october 2014, 15:11

 New York's mayor said America's largest city was fully equipped to handle Ebola as authorities sought to calm fears Friday about the virus spreading, after a doctor tested positive for the disease, AFP reports.

Craig Spencer, 33, was in stable condition in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center on Friday after testing positive for the illness, which has killed nearly 4,900 people in West Africa.

He was rushed to the hospital with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms on Thursday, a week after returning from treating Ebola patients in Guinea with the charity group Doctors Without Borders.

His live-in fiancee and two of his close friends are in quarantine but healthy, officials said.

New York, one of the largest points of entry in the United States, had been braced for months for a possible Ebola case. Spencer, is the city's first case and the first diagnosed in the United States outside Texas.

In Dallas, two nurses contracted the virus after treating a Liberian patient who later died of Ebola.

Health officials said one of the two women, Nina Pham, has been declared free of the virus and was released from the hospital on Friday.

Relatives of the other nurse, Amber Vinson, said she was declared free of Ebola earlier this week.

"There is no cause for alarm," Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference. "New Yorkers need to understand the situation is being handled and handled well."

"We are fully prepared to handle Ebola. Our medical experts here in the city have been studying this disease intensively and working closely with our federal partners," de Blasio said.

On Friday, crews in full protective dress arrived outside Spencer's apartment building in West Harlem. De Blasio said the apartment was "locked and isolated" and "the only area of concern in the building."

De Blasio urged anyone who has travelled to one of the three Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- in the last 21 days and has a fever to call 911 or go immediately to a hospital emergency room.

"We have no other cases reported but it's important that people understand that is the protocol," he said.

  New Yorkers 'not at risk'

 Authorities stepped up efforts Friday to allay fears of casual infection after it emerged that Spencer had ridden the subway, visited a bowling alley, public garden, coffee shop and restaurant before going to hospital.

"It cannot be transmitted through casual contact, it cannot be transmitted in an airborne fashion," said de Blasio. "New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person are simply not at risk," he said.

Health department detectives have traced all his prior movements, visiting each establishment and are clearing them from any risk.

Republican politicians -- and some New Yorkers -- have expressed outrage that the doctor moved freely through the city. Some have called for a mandatory quarantine for health workers returning from Ebola-afflicted countries.

"I think we immediately need to look at travel bans and quarantines," Republican Congressman from Utah Jason Chaffetz told CNN.

"I don't buy into the idea of a self-quarantine. That's obviously not working," said Chaffetz, a member of a committee which is holding a hearing on the response to Ebola on Friday.

New York's JFK airport introduced health screenings on October 11.

Spencer flew home on October 17, arriving via Europe, at JFK. He is a fellow of international emergency medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

The hospital called him a "dedicated humanitarian" who went to help a desperately underserved population and did not return to work since his return.

"He is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first," it said in a statement.

"Our thoughts are with him, and we wish him all the best at this time."

The bowling alley he visited on Wednesday, The Gutter, announced that it had closed voluntarily on Thursday evening "as a precautionary measure" but expected to reopen on Friday after being sanitized.

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