Apparently not satisfied with inflicting havoc in Texas for two weeks and causing a major panic, the publicity-hungry Ebola virus set its sights on the media capital of the world on Thursday.
The latest Ebola case is a New York City Doctor. A specialist in international medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Craig Spencer had been working with Ebola patients for the French relief agency Doctors Without Borders.
New York City health officials are conducting contact tracing to find people who may have had contact with Dr. Spencer.
The bad news?
New York City being New York City, Spencer took the the subway from his apartment on West 143th street in Harlem to a Brooklyn bowling alley the night before his fever spiked. That’s led to speculation that he may have inadvertently exposed a lot of people. Public health health officials are now tracing Spencer’s contacts to find potential “high risk” cases.
Our talking points:
Is It Possible to Catch Ebola on the Subway?
No. Yes. Maybe.
Unfortunately, in reality we don’t know, although we’re pretty sure we do. Current CDC guidelines are based on the assumption that Ebola only becomes contagious when symptoms present and the patient enters the high fever stage.
Via Controversies at Hospital Infection Prevention:
Those at risk for Ebola are healthcare workers who have cared for Ebola patients (whether here or in West Africa). Not mall-goers, bowlers, subway riders, or those who might have been in an airport terminal on the same day as an asymptomatic Ebola patient. The greatest transmission risk is borne by those who provide direct care for Ebola patients during severe illness, when viral shedding is very high.
There’s a lot of evidence to support this argument. There have been cases of symptomatic Ebola patients traveling by airplane, bus and other modes of transportation without spreading the disease. That’s somewhat reassuring.
On the other hand, it is not exactly compelling statistical evidence of anything other than that some people travelled with an Ebola patient and did not develop Ebola.
We need to work with much larger numbers before we know for sure. The good news?
Now that Ebola has arrived in a city of eight million people, we’re now going to have them.