Disinfecting the apartment of New York City's first Ebola patient spared almost all of his belongings because he sought treatment swiftly, officials said Friday.
"We do not consider the patient's apartment to be 'contaminated' based on the history of no release of blood or body fluids before he was removed from the apartment," the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a statement.
Though cleaning contractors detected no blood or body fluids, "out of an abundance of caution, the cleaners have removed used linens and clothing and disinfected all hard surfaces with a disinfectant effective against non-enveloped viruses (bleach)," the agency said.
The removed items waste were handled according to federal guidelines, it added. Such waste can only be shipped and disposed of by specially regulated firms.
Officials with Ronkonkoma-based Bio Recovery Corp., the company disinfecting Spencer's West Harlem apartment, could not immediately comment.
Ebola can only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. Dr. Craig Spencer, who returned to the city on Oct. 17 after treating patients in Guinea, called authorities Thursday after his temperature rose to 100.3 degrees.
Testing showed his building's common areas were not contaminated. In contrast, the shared areas of the apartment buildings of the two Dallas nurses who were stricken were decontaminated.
"A hazmat team went in to do a decontamination of the common areas, the hallways, door handles, doors, that kind of stuff, the laundry room, even the gym I think was added for one of the nurses," said Sana Syed, a spokeswoman for the city of Dallas.
The Ebola virus cannot live outside a host for very long, and it is killed by household bleach and disinfectants used by hospitals, health officials said.
"Ebola on dry surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature," according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials with some specialist cleaning firms recommended sealing apartments and using machines to set off a chemical "fog," a method also used to control insects.
"The advantage of that over a general disinfecting spray is that when you point and spray, you're prone, due to human error, to missing certain locations," said Steve Feinstein, sales director of SixLog Corp., in Costa Mesa, California.