, New York, Oct 24 – A doctor who recently returned to New York from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the deadly virus, the first confirmed case in the city.
The doctor, Craig Spencer, was placed in isolation at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital Center earlier Thursday after suffering Ebola symptoms including a 103-degree Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius) fever and nausea.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Spencer’s positive test at a late-night press conference, but urged residents not to panic, insisting the city was fully prepared to stop the disease in its tracks.
“We want to state at the outset, (this) is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed. Ebola is an extremely hard disease to contract. It is transmitted only through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids,” said de Blasio.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said city officials had already identified four people believed to have crossed paths with Spencer, and said he did not expect a repeat of the situation in Dallas, where hospital staff appeared to have been caught off-guard by the arrival of the disease that has killed almost 4,900 people in West Africa.
“Dallas was caught before they could really prepare. We had the advantage of learning from their experience,” he said.
New York Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett said Spencer — who was working in West Africa for the charity Doctors Without Borders — had arrived back in the United States from Guinea on October 17.
The doctor had monitored his temperature regularly since his return. His first sign of Ebola symptoms came on Thursday with his fever.
– Mali case –
Confirmation of the New York case came just hours after Mali reported its first confirmed case of the disease, when a two-year-old girl who had recently been in Guinea tested positive for the virus.
“Today Mali has its first imported case of the Ebola virus,” the ministry said in a statement. The girl was diagnosed after she arrived at a hospital in the western town of Kayes on Wednesday, it added.
The child and those she has come into contact with have been put in isolation.
The New York and Mali cases came after African countries pledged to send more than 1,000 health workers to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where the World Health Organization says the spread of the killer virus “remains of great concern.”
African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the regional bloc was responding to an urgent need for well-trained medical reinforcements to help in the fight against the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the disease.
“Several African member states have pledged to send in a number of health workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, including DR Congo, which will send around 1,000 workers in three groups,” Dlamini-Zuma told reporters in Freetown.
East African members of the bloc had earlier pledged to send another 600 health workers, she added.
A lack of skilled medical professionals has been one of the major obstacles in the battle against Ebola, which according to the WHO has now infected nearly 10,000 people.
Health workers in particular have paid a heavy price, with 244 deaths out of 443 cases.
– ‘Race against time’ –
The WHO said after an emergency meeting on the deadly haemorrhagic fever that the situation in the worst-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “remains of great concern” as cases increase exponentially.
“It has been terrifically difficult to get enough health workers — both domestic health workers as well as international health workers — and this continues to be one of the major challenges,” said WHO’s deputy chief Keiji Fukuda.
The European Union meanwhile fast-tracked 24.4 million euros ($31 million) to find vaccines and treatments.
“We’re in a race against time on Ebola,” said EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
EU leaders also named Christos Stylianides of Cyprus as the bloc’s new Ebola czar, tasked with coordinating the fight against the disease.
There is currently no licensed cure for Ebola, which is transmitted through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or the body of someone who has died from the disease.