NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As a second American who contracted Ebola in Liberia arrived in the United States for special treatment, Manhattan doctors are still waiting for tests done on a patient who showed Ebola-like symptoms Monday.
The man showed up to the Mount Sinai Medical Center emergency room with a high fever and gastrointestinal problems. Concern increased after he told doctors he had recently traveled to a country in West Africa, where the deadly virus is spreading.
The man was placed into “strict isolation” within seven minutes of his arrival, and was undergoing various tests to determine the cause of the symptoms late Monday, the hospital said. He remained in isolation Tuesday.
“This is the time for maximum on-guard because the more you invest in something early, the less trouble you have,” Dr. John Jacoby, a primary care physician at Mount Sinai, told CBS 2’s Don Champion.
While Jacoby is not among those treating the patient directly, he assured everyone that the hospital is taking every precaution necessary — with good reason.
“One case leads to two leads to four leads to eight,” Jacoby said.
Mount Sinai released a statement Tuesday confirming the patient’s specimen has been delivered to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for testing.
The hospital said it will take 24 to 48 hours for testing to be completed, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“The patient, who remains in isolation, was stable overnight and in good spirits,” the statement said.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett reiterated Tuesday odds are that the patient has not been infected with the virus.
“Looking at his history, we think it’s highly unlikely that he has Ebola,” she told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “But we’re going to await the tests from the CDC.
“I think what we learned from this is that people who are potentially infected with Ebola are rapidly identified, action is taken rapidly to ensure that they’re isolated and the public’s health is protected,” the health commissioner added.
Mount Sinai Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeremy Boal was the first to say publicly Monday night that Ebola was a long shot.
“The first thing that we’d like to stress is that odds are this is not Ebola,” Boal said on MOnday. “It’s much more likely that it’s a much more common condition, and we’re ruling those things out as well.”
The hospital reiterated Tuesday its assurance that it is “employing all necessary infection control measures” to protect staff and patients.
Despite the reputation of the deadly virus, people leaving Mount Sinai after visiting patients said they were not overly concerned about the virus spreading to their loved ones, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
“I mean it’s something to think about, but I wouldn’t be devastated like ‘oh I won’t go in there,'” said Lillie Holley. “It’s a dangerous thing, but I mean Mount Sinai got it handled.”
Mount Sinai officials also commented on a report claiming six people in New York City have been tested for the virus, saying “Contrary to a recent report in the New York Post, there is only one patient currently at Mount Sinai being tested for the Ebola Virus Disease.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said three Americans in the United States were tested for Ebola since the West African outbreak erupted this year and those results were negative.
As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, hospitals across New York City are taking every precaution since receiving a directive from the CDC to be on the lookout for symptoms.
While doctors await the results, patients and visitors at Mount Sinai Hospital are doing their best to remain calm, CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.
“Mount Sinai is a big hospital, I’m sure they’re used to infectious diseases,” East Harlem resident Jackie Saltares said.
“I was confident that everything would be all right,” Bronx resident Anthony Johnson said.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the CDC deemed a sick passenger aboard a JFK-bound flight posed no infectious disease risk after being notified.
The CDC said the passenger suffered from seizures, but responded because of a heightened alert due to the possible spread of Ebola.
A man who came off a plane from West Africa with a high fever was kept in isolation for a time at Bellevue last week, and there was another case at NYU that turned out not to be Ebola.
Hospital staff are now required to ask ER patients with high fever and abdominal pain if they recently traveled to Africa or came in contact with anyone who did.
Health officials said the threat to Americans at home remains relatively small. Officials at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak there.
Border patrol agents at Kennedy Airport and Dulles Airport in Washington have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, a headache, achiness, a sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash or red eyes.
While the CDC said it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports, the job of local authorities there, it said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaires.
In response to the outbreak, British Airways suspended some flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of the month.
Over the weekend, American physician Dr. Kent Brantly, who is infected with Ebola, was brought to the United States from Africa. He was being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. A second aid worker, Nancy Writebol, arrived at the same hospital Tuesday.
The 59-year-old was wheeled in on a stretcher, unlike Brantly who was able to walk when he returned from Liberia, CBS 2’s Omar Villafranca reported.
Bruce Johnson heads up SIM USA, the aid group Writebol and Brantly were working for when they contracted the virus. He held back tears while sharing thoughts from Writebol’s husband.
“A week ago he said ‘we were thinking about possible funeral arrangements,'” Johnson said. “‘Now, we have a reason to be hopeful.'”
Both patients were given an experimental drug to combat the virus, and are being held in an isolated ward of Emory University Hospital.
Brantly’s wife said she’s been able to visit him everyday and that he continues to improve, Villafranca reported.
The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has sickened more than 1,600 people, killing nearly 900 mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
It’s spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit symptoms, making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing they have it.
The current outbreak is the largest since the disease first emerged in Africa nearly 40 years ago.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, but a vaccine is set to begin human trials next month. So far, the vaccine has shown success in monkeys.
For more information on Ebola from the CDC, click here.
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