We knew this moment would come. On Thursday, Dr. Craig Spencer of the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders was rushed from his Harlem home to Bellevue Hospital with a high temperature. Then a few hours later, we learned he has Ebola.
Suddenly all New Yorkers face a test.
Our first challenge is to learn the facts about this case and keep our calm. Our second challenge is to ensure that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives us the best possible scientific advice on treatment and containment of the deadly virus. Now we can hope that Bellevue delivers flawless and informed care.
We think this can be done.
From what we know, Spencer, 33, is selfless. He has been working at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, where medical facilities are scarce and the epidemic has taken thousands of lives. We wish Spencer the best.
He returned home 10 days ago and later came down with nausea and a high fever. Spencer did move around the city, but Thursday morning, he called the city’s health department. Fire department hazmat specialists sealed his apartment, and health workers removed him in a protective suit. Other public health workers are tracing contacts he might have made since his return from Africa — standard practice in the face of such a contagion.
For its part, the CDC has sharply revised its tactics after stumbling terribly when the first Ebola case reached a Texas hospital recently.
The CDC has revised its procedures to say caregivers in Ebola cases should leave no skin — not a bit — uncovered when treating patients. And it said a supervisor must oversee the use of protective equipment.
So why is Bellevue one of eight hospitals in New York State designated as Ebola-ready? The reasons range from space available to rooms that can handle heavy electrical loads from medical equipment.
But the real reason is that Bellevue has been a legendary leader in fighting epidemics since tuberculosis was a scourge. It has met adversity with cool competence.