NEW YORK CITY — The condition of an American doctor who tested positive for Ebola at a New York City hospital last month has been upgraded from serious to stable, health officials confirmed on Saturday, indicating that the patient may have gone through worst of the disease.
An emailed statement from the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) said Dr. Craig Spencer's condition had improved, but provided no other details. "Based on our patient's clinical progress and response to treatment, today HHC is updating his condition to 'stable' from 'serious but stable.' The patient will remain in isolation and continue to receive full treatment," the statement said.
In a previous update on October 25, health officials said Dr. Spencer was awake and communicating while entering the next phase of his illness. It said the doctor was receiving required supportive therapy in addition to antiviral therapy and plasma therapy, which were also used in the successful treatment of Ebola patients at other U.S. hospitals.
Dr. Spencer arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on October 17 after flying from West Africa, where he had treated Ebola victims as part of a Doctors Without Borders team. He was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital on October 23 when he reported a fever to health officials, after which he tested positive for Ebola. There is no indication that anyone he had contact with has contracted the virus.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is believed to have started in Guinea in December 2013 but was not detected until March, after which it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The outbreak features the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, which is considered to be the most aggressive and deadly strain, having killed up to 9 out of 10 infected in previous outbreaks.
As of October 29, at least 13,567 people have been infected with Ebola since the outbreak began, including 4,951 people who have died of the disease, according to health authorities in the countries involved. Liberia has been the worst hit country with at least 6,535 cases including 2,413 deaths, but authorities believe the actual figures are far higher.
Ebola is a highly infectious disease and kills its victims in a very short time. Signs and symptoms include high grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes and, in some cases, bleeding from body openings. The ongoing outbreak is the worst ever of its kind and coincides with an unrelated Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, can spread through direct contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat but also through soiled linen used by an infected person. It can also spread by using skin piercing instruments previously used by an infected person or by touching the body of a person who died of Ebola. It is not airborne.