US doctor treated for Ebola in New York to be discharged on Tuesday

Dr Craig Spencer, who was infected with Ebola and treated in New York's Bellevue Hospital (above) after caring for patients in Guinea, is likely to be released on Nov 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Dr Craig Spencer, who was infected with Ebola and treated in New York's Bellevue Hospital (above) after caring for patients in Guinea, is likely to be released on Nov 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A New York doctor who became America’s last known Ebola case has been cured of the devastating disease and will go home this week, health officials said on Monday.

Craig Spencer, 33, contracted Ebola while caring for patients who were sick with the often-deadly virus in Guinea. He is due to be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday.  

“After a rigorous course of treatment and testing, Dr Craig Spencer – the patient admitted and diagnosed with Ebola disease virus at HHC Bellevue Hospital Center – has been declared free of the virus,” officials said in a statement.

The statement stressed that Spencer “poses no public health risk.” He was admitted to Bellevue hospital and tested positive for Ebola on Oct 23. He was the first person in New York to be diagnosed with the disease.

New York is one of the busiest points of entry in the United States and the city has repeatedly said it is fully prepared for any possible case of the disease that has killed some 5,000 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.  

So far the United States has treated nine Ebola victims; only one of them died. Thomas Eric Duncan, who had travelled to Texas from his native Liberia, died on Oct 8, and two nurses who treated him in the intensive care unit of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital were also infected. They have since recovered.

Spencer came back to the United States on Oct 17, flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport.  Officials say he then made an attempt at self-isolation, taking his temperature twice a day, although he was in close contact with his fiancee and two friends.  He also went bowling and used the subway before falling ill, causing some New Yorkers to worry about the potential spread of the disease despite repeated reassurances from city officials.

- Significant milestone -

The resolution of America’s final known Ebola case is a significant milestone, as communities across the country remain on high alert and are taking various measures to guard against the virus.  A nurse from Maine, Kaci Hickox, was kept in an isolation tent for three days after she flew back from Sierra Leone, though she was released into home quarantine after she tested negative for the disease.

The deadly hemorrhagic fever is only transmitted once symptoms appear, but it becomes increasingly contagious as a patient’s condition worsens.  In West Africa, underfunded health systems have been crippled by the disease, which has spiraled out of control and infected more than 13,000 people.  Ebola is a tropical fever which is estimated to have a fatality rate of around 70 per cent in the current outbreak. It is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids.