A New York City emergency room doctor who was the first Ebola patient in America's biggest city has recovered and is scheduled to be released from the hospital, health officials said.
Dr Craig Spencer, who was the only Ebola patient being treated in the United States, has been declared free of the virus, the city Department of Health said Monday in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Spencer has suffered a lot the last few weeks but has “come back really strong.” He called Spencer “a real hero.”
“I'm sure he's a little weakened from the experience,” de Blasio said, but he's “very, very healthy.”
Health officials have stressed that Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is showing symptoms. Still, news of Spencer's infection set many New Yorkers on edge, particularly after details emerged that he rode the subway, dined in a meatball restaurant and visited a bowling alley in the days before he developed a fever and tested positive.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responded by announcing a mandatory 21-day quarantine for travelers who have come in close contact with Ebola patients.
Spencer tested positive for the virus on Oct. 23, just days after returning from treating patients in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
The 33-year-old has been treated in a specially designed isolation unit at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, a designated Ebola treatment center. His condition was upgraded from serious to stable last week.
His fiancee and two friends were initially quarantined but were released and are being monitored along with hundreds of others.
Spencer is expected to issue a statement but not take questions when he's released from the hospital.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo had urged residents not to be alarmed by Spencer's Ebola diagnosis, even as they described him riding the subway and taking a cab. De Blasio said all city officials followed “clear and strong” protocols in their handling and treatment of him.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has killed thousands of people, but only a handful of people has been diagnosed or treated in the United States.
Those treated in the US also include American health and aid workers and a journalist who were in West Africa, a Liberian man diagnosed with the virus during a visit to Texas and two nurses who contracted it from him. The man, Thomas Eric Duncan, died; the rest have recovered.
Colleagues in Guinea have said Spencer conscientiously followed safety procedures in place at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Gueckedou.
Spencer, an attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has traveled around the world to care for the needy. In the past three years, he'd been to Rwanda to work on an emergency care teaching curriculum, volunteered at a health clinic in Burundi, helped investigate an infectious parasitic disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo and traveled to 32 villages in Indonesia to do a public health survey.
Colleagues have said Spencer has the ability to put patients at ease even when he doesn't know their language, winning them over through hugs and smiles.