Preliminary tests indicate a 5-year-old Bronx boy who was evaluated for Ebola after developing a fever following a trip to West Africa does not have the deadly virus, health officials say.
The boy, who had returned to the U.S. from Guinea 36 hours ago, was transported to Bellevue Hospital Center from his family's Bronx home Sunday night after experiencing symptoms, sources familiar with the situation said. The hospital said in a statement the child did not appear feverish when first examined, but developed a temperature Monday morning. He was tested for Ebola out of an abundance of caution given his recent travel history and symptoms.
On a conference call Monday afternoon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said the boy's "pattern of illness is not what we would expect to see in someone who has Ebola."
Samples will be sent to CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, for confirmation.
Bellevue was designated as the city’s go-to medical center for possible Ebola cases and is where Craig Spencer, the first New Yorker diagnosed with the disease, is being treated. Spencer contracted the virus while on an Ebola assignment for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea.
Health officials said Spencer was showing signs of improvement Sunday, a day after entering the next phase of the illness: the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. To combat his symptoms, the doctor received a plasma transfusion from the second American Ebola patient Nancy Writebol on Saturday, which he tolerated well, said Health and Hospitals Corp. President Dr. Ram Raju.
Because Spencer was diagnosed with the virus in its early stages, it was expected that his condition would deteriorate at first.
"People tend to get worse before they get better," said Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "So he remains in stable condition but we are aware that this is the natural course of this disease."
Spencer's fiancee and two friends who spent time with him before he got sick remain asymptomatic, de Blasio said.
On the heels of Spencer's diagnosis, Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie announced Friday that any health care workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa would be required to be quarantined for 21 days. A nurse returning from Sierra Leone Friday was the first person quarantined under the new policy and denounced the way she was treated, saying she was made to feel like a criminal. The nurse, who tested negative for Ebola, is being discharged from the hospital Monday.
Amid criticism, Gov. Cuomo clarified the details of New York's mandatory quarantine Sunday, saying in a briefing with Mayor de Blasio that anyone who has had exposure to Ebola-infected patients but shows no symptoms will be asked to remain in their homes, not a hospital, for the 21-day period.
Health care workers will then visit the home unannounced twice a day to check their symptoms. Accommodations will be found for any health care worker without a place to stay.
Travelers returning from Ebola-stricken countries who did not have contact with a person infected with the virus and are asymptomatic would be handled on a case-by-case basis, the governor said.
At a minimum, health care workers would still visit their homes twice a day, but they wouldn't necessarily be confined to their homes for the virus' three-week incubation period. "Some people will say we're being too cautious," Cuomo said. "I'll take that criticism because that's better than the alternative."
The governor added that employers would be contacted if the 21-day quarantine became an issue and that the state was looking to extend benefits to health care workers in these cases. The state will also pay for any lost wages if they are not paid by a volunteer organization.
Cuomo said health care workers will still be encouraged to help in West Africa, but that there must be a balance between the need for aid and the protection and public health of New Yorkers.
Health officials say the chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim. Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person. It can't be contracted simply by being near someone who has Ebola, and the disease can only be spread by people who are extremely sick.