Ebola in NYC? Sick man in isolation at Mount Sinai Hospital

A sick man is in isolation at Mount A sick man is in isolation at Mount Sinai Hospital after a trip to West Africa where Ebola was reported. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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A man who recently traveled to West Africa is being tested for the Ebola virus at Mt. Sinai Hospital, but doctors said Monday it was unlikely he was suffering from the deadly disease.

The patient, who was not identified by officials, went to the hospital's emergency room with a high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, officials said at a news conference last night.

Dr. Jeremy Boal, chief medical officer for Mount Sinai, said it was more likely that the patient had "another, more common virus."

Results from tests sent to the Centers for Disease Control were expected in the next day or two, said Dr. David Reich, Mt. Sinai's president and CEO.

"All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff," the Hospital said earlier in a statement.

The man was isolated within seven minutes of appearing at the ER early Monday morning, and there was no concern that other patients or staff were at risk, said Dr. Boal said. The patient was in good condition, Reich noted.

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The Mt. Sinai physicians stressed that it is unlikely that their patient is suffering Ebola and even if he is, the disease is not spread via casual contact.

The CDC said that Ebola poses "no significant risk" for people in this country.

The hemmoraghic fever, which is spread via direct contact with blood, bodily fluids and secretions, has killed about 900 people in Africa since February. Emory University Hospital in Atlanta is treating a 33-year-old doctor, Dr. Kent Brantly, who had gone to Liberia with a Christian aid organization, and was expecting another patient, missionary Nancy Writebol, 59, who had worked with Brantly treating patients there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a "Level 3" travel warning advising people to avoid all non-essential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Mt. Sinai did not provide details about its patient's age or residence.

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While Ebola is often fatal, the Mt. Sinai patient's prognosis is likely to be better should he be found to suffer the disease, given the advanced care available to him here and his likelihood of receiving a new experimental drug, which is in short supply, but which has shown good results in treating at least one strain of the virus, said Rossi Hassad, an epidemiologist who is a research and statistics professor at Mercy College.

Given New York's status as a busy, dense international crossroads, and the fact that patients can be infected for up to three weeks before displaying symptoms, there is a possibility that Ebola cases will emerge in NYC, even though there is no need for panic, said Hassad. "We should be aware, but there is no need for anxiety, fear or hysteria because of how prepared and equipped we are in terms of isolation and other barrier methods and, most importantly, the competence of our medical personnel and our ability for quick intervention," said Hassad.

What can New Yorkers do to protect themselves? Use good personal hygiene, avoid contact with other people's bodily fluids and "be aware of the people around you and any symptoms they present," Hassad said.

-- With Reuters and Newsday

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