NEW YORK: New York and New Jersey on Friday ordered a mandatory quarantine for medics who treated victims of Ebola in West Africa, after the deadly virus spread to America’s largest city.
The new measures were ordered by state governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie the day after an American doctor tested positive for Ebola one week after returning from working in hard-hit Guinea.
Craig Spencer, 33, was in stable condition in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center on Friday as he underwent treatment for the illness, which has killed nearly 4,900 people—most of them in West Africa.
The New York case revived fears about the possible spread of the virus in US cities, but a glimmer of hope came with the news that two Texas nurses infected while treating a Liberian man are now free of the virus.
In Manhattan, Cuomo and Christie announced additional screening protocols at JFK and Newark international airports at a joint press conference.
Steps include mandatory quarantine for up to 21 days of any individual who has had direct contact with an Ebola patient while in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, including medics who treated Ebola patients.
Additionally, anyone who has travelled to the affected regions but not had direct contact with an Ebola patient will be actively monitored by public health officials and quarantined if necessary.
Christie said that a health care worker who arrived at Newark with a recent history of treating patients with Ebola in West Africa, but who had no symptoms, had been placed in quarantine.
Spencer was rushed to the hospital with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms on Thursday, a week after returning from a stint in West Africa with the charity group Doctors Without Borders.
His live-in fiancee and two of his close friends are in quarantine but healthy, officials said.
‘No cause for alarm’
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo and other officials sought to allay fears that Spencer had put New Yorkers at risk by using the subway, going bowling and eating out before falling ill.
“There is no cause for alarm,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers need to understand the situation is being handled and handled well.”
“We are fully prepared to handle Ebola. Our medical experts here in the city have been studying this disease intensively and working closely with our federal partners,” de Blasio said.
New York, one of the largest points of entry to the United States, had been braced for months for a possible Ebola case.
The area’s two largest international airports, JFK and Newark, this month introduced health checks for passengers travelling from West Africa, and four city hospitals are equipped to cope with Ebola patients.
Spencer, who returned home through JFK on October 17, is the first case diagnosed in the United States outside Texas.
In Dallas, two nurses contracted the virus after treating a Liberian patient who later died of Ebola.
The nurses were declared cured on Friday, and 26-year-old Nina Pham was healthy enough to leave hospital and meet President Barack Obama for a hug at the White House before returning home.