After a weekend filled with debate over controversial quarantine measures instituted in New York and New Jersey, there are concerns Monday that there may be a second Ebola patient in New York City.
On Sunday night EMS Hazardous Material Tactical Units transported a five-year-old child from his home in the Bronx to Bellevue Hospital, responding to a report that the boy had developed a 103-degree fever after returning Saturday from a trip to Guinea with his family.
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation said in a statement Monday morning that the boy did not, in fact, have a fever when he arrived at Bellevue last night, but developed one this morning around 7 a.m. while under observation at the hospital. He has now been tested for Ebola; test results are expected within the next 12 hours.
“As a further precaution, the Health Department’s team of disease detectives has begun to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” the HHC said on Monday, while reiterating that the chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim. “Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person. You cannot be infected simply by being near someone who has Ebola.”
As of Sunday, Dr. Craig Spencer, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in New York City, was in “serious but stable condition” at Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Ram Raju of the HHC told reporters the doctor was looking better following a plasma treatment on Saturday. Spencer, who also recently returned from Guinea, where he treated patients with Ebola, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday.
On Friday, Governors Cuomo and Christie announced new mandatory quarantine measures for any health workers returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, whether or not they were exhibiting symptoms.
On Sunday night, after harsh criticism from the White House, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and health officials, both Cuomo and Christie tweaked their positions: Instead of a mandatory quarantine, workers would be able to wait out the potential Ebola incubation period at home.
Under the new policy, travelers arriving at JFK from the three Ebola-affected countries will face one of three scenarios. In scenario one, a patient with symptoms would be transported to a New York City hospital (likely Bellevue) for observation and treatment.
In scenario two, a traveler who reports contact with an Ebola patient but no symptoms of the disease will be driven to their home, where they will remain under mandatory quarantine, with twice-daily visits from health officials, for 21 days.
In a third scenario under the new state guidelines, travelers returning with no symptoms and no known contact with an Ebola patient — like the five-year-old now at Bellevue — will be treated on a case-by-case basis.
“At the minimum the New York State Department of Health or local health department will monitor these individuals twice a day for temperature and other symptoms until the 21-day incubation period is over, but these individuals would not automatically be subject to quarantine,” the governor’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
Update: Monday, October 27, 5:51 p.m.: According to the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the boy has tested negative for Ebola. “Out of an abundance of caution, further negative Ebola tests are required on subsequent days to ensure that the patient is cleared. The patient will also be tested for common respiratory viruses. The patient will remain in isolation until all test results have returned,” the agency said in a statement.