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The Ebola Virus: Separating Facts From Fiction

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)A patient being held in isolation at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem reportedly has not shown any signs of the Ebola virus, but the possibility that the deadly virus may be in New York City at all has caused concern.

CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez separated fact from fiction about the virus Tuesday night.

The patient came to the hospital with fever and stomach problems after visiting West Africa. He was being treated in strict isolation Tuesday in case his blood tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention come back positive for Ebola.

Test results were not expected until Wednesday. But as early as Monday, hospital officials said it was unlikely that the patient was actually suffering from Ebola.

“The first thing that we’d like to stress is that odds are this is not Ebola,” Mount Sinai Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeremy Boal said Monday. “It’s much more likely that it’s a much more common condition, and we’re ruling those things out as well.”

And despite the deadly reputation of the virus, people coming from visiting patients at Mount Sinai said they were not overly concerned about the virus spreading to their loved ones.

“I mean, it’s something to think about it, but I wouldn’t be devastated like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go in there,’ no,” said Lillie Holley. “You know, it’s a dangerous thing, but I believe Mount Sinai got it handled.”

Infectious disease experts in the U.S. have all said that while Ebola is lethal, it is not spread by casual contact.

It requires fairly close contact with infected bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, vomit, and feces. For that reason, health care workers are gowned, gloved, and masked to prevent the virus from getting into their eyes, mouths, or any open sores.

With appropriate precautions, experts in the U.S. said we are safe.

“From a medical standpoint, the chance of this virus going out into the community is exquisitely small, and people should know that – that hospitals are well aware of this and adequately take care of a patient like this,” said Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital.

Several hospitals around the country have reported patients showing Ebola and have taken precautions. But New York City being a major international point of entry makes the city a more likely place for a case to show up.

The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene held a conference call Tuesday afternoon with area hospitals to make sure everyone is well-prepared.

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