Doctor Becomes 4th Ebola Case in US: Why Moms Still Shouldn't Worry

mom sick childA man who returned from Guinea last week has become New York City's first Ebola patient and the fourth case in the US. Dr. Craig Spencer had been volunteering with Doctors Without Borders. He was rushed to the hospital yesterday with symptoms. We've learned that in the week leading up to that point, he'd ridden the subway, taken a cab, and went bowling. Needless to say, this has New Yorkers freaked out of their wits. 


I can understand that fear. I rode on one of the same subway lines Spencer did. It's an incredibly crowded city. Everyone is wondering WHY anyone would return from treating Ebola patients and then go bowling, of all things. Maybe don't go bowling if you've been hanging out with Ebola patients, you know?!?

But as frightening as this story seems, we should NOT be worrying about Ebola spreading from this case. Here's why.

1. Ebola is not contagious until you start exhibiting symptoms. All that time Spencer was bowling and riding taxis and the subway and brushing past potentially thousands of people -- he wasn't contagious. At all.

2. Ebola is spread only through bodily fluids. The only way Spencer could have passed on Ebola via bowling ball is if he'd already been exhibiting symptoms and then sneezed on the ball and handed it right over to you. Okay? Ebola is not an airborne disease. In fact, Ebola is even less contagious than HIV.

3. Spencer was checking his temperature twice a day. He knew he was at risk, and he was taking that seriously. He knew exactly what symptoms to look out for and took responsibility for monitoring himself.

More from The Stir: Could You & Your Family Get the Ebola Virus? 5 Things You Should Know

4. Spencer went to the hospital immediately when his symptoms started. Spencer only had a fever of 100.3 degrees when he was rushed to the hospital. That's how cautious he was being. When Liberian Ebola victim Eric Duncan first checked into the Dallas hospital, he was sent back home with antibiotics. I have no idea what those people were thinking, but NYC doctors learned from that mistake and aren't about to repeat it here. Spencer wasted no time in getting himself to the hospital.

5. Three people Spencer came in contact with have been quarantined. His fiancee and two friends may have come in contact with Spencer after he started showing symptoms. 

6. THIS TIME we were prepared to handle the emergency. In a statement, New York's Governor Cuomo said of the Ebola case:

Over the past few weeks, we have undertaken a thorough and coordinated effort alongside all relevant partners, from healthcare workers to the local and federal governments, in order to implement the appropriate precautions. 

Bellevue hospital, where Spencer is being treated, is one of eight in the state specially prepared to quarantine and handle Ebola patients.

7. Spencer had not treated any patients since his return. That would be scary.

As infectious diseases expert Dr. Aaron Glatt told me a couple weeks ago, "there are other things you should be much more concerned about." Like the flu, for example. Or diabetes. Or heart disease.

I would urge everyone who is worried to try this experiment: Compare the way media outlets that depend on ratings and advertiser dollars cover this case with the way public radio and television cover it. Turn off the TV. Pay attention to what's going on, right now, in your own life. Take a deep breath and have a moment of gratitude for your health and well-being.

Do you think people returning from affected countries in Africa should be quarantined upon return, regardless of whether they show symptoms of Ebola?


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