NEW YORK – An emergency room doctor who was the first Ebola patient in the nation’s biggest city was scheduled to be released from a hospital after beating the virus.
With Dr. Craig Spencer’s recovery, there are no Ebola patients currently under treatment in the U.S. But officials continue to monitor hundreds of people.
Spencer is expected to speak, but not take questions, as he leaves Bellevue Hospital Tuesday. He was declared free of the virus after rigorous testing, the city Health Department said in a statement Monday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called Spencer “a real hero.”
“He’s suffered a lot these last few weeks, but he’s come back really strong,” de Blasio said.
The 33-year-old physician was diagnosed Oct. 23, days after returning from treating patients in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. He was treated in a specially designed isolation unit.
His condition was upgraded from serious to stable last week, and he felt well enough to request an exercise bike and a banjo.
His fiancee and two friends initially were quarantined but were released and are being monitored.
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 they learned 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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responded by announcing a mandatory 21-day quarantine for travellers who have come in close contact with Ebola patients. De Blasio urged residents not to be alarmed by Spencer’s Ebola diagnosis, saying that those not exposed were not at risk.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has killed thousands of people, but only a handful of people has been treated in the United States.
Besides Spencer, they include American health and aid workers and a journalist who fell ill 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.
Spencer may have been aware of New Yorkers’ fears about his case but didn’t dwell on them, and he remained upbeat about recovering even during the worst of his illness, said de Blasio, who spoke to the doctor during his hospitalization.
Spencer, an attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has travelled around the world to care for the needy.