New York doctor now free of Ebola discharged from hospital

PHOTO: New York doctor now free of Ebola discharged from hospital

A New York doctor who has recovered from Ebola left the hospital on Tuesday and urged support for US health workers treating patients in West Africa so they do not face "stigma and threats" when they return home.

The discharge of Dr. Craig Spencer, who worked with Ebola patients in Guinea and had been held in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center since he was diagnosed with the virus on Oct. 23, means no one in the United States is being treated for the disease.

Looking gaunt but happy, Spencer, 33, high-fived Bellevue nurses and was hugged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the mayor's wife, Chirlane McCray, and a handful of other officials at a news conference before his release.

"My infection represents a fraction of the more than 13,000 reported cases in West Africa, the centre of the outbreak," said Spencer, a physician from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center who worked overseas with Doctors Without Borders.

"Please join me in turning our attention back to West Africa and ensuring that medical volunteers and other aid workers do not face stigma and threats returning home," said Spencer, who lives in an apartment in Harlem with his fiancee, Morgan Dixon.

The city also released Dixon from a mandatory quarantine at the apartment on Tuesday.

A handful of US states have imposed mandatory quarantines on health workers returning from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the outbreak has killed more than 4,900 people so far this year. The federal government has warned the quarantines may discourage volunteers.

Spencer's diagnosis followed trips on the subway to eat out and go bowling with friends, provoking public alarm, which public health experts said was unfounded, about the possible spread of the virus.

"It's a very, very good day," de Blasio said. "Dr. Spencer is Ebola-free and New York City is Ebola-free."

President Barack Obama spoke to Spencer from China by phone early on Wednesday morning to herald his recovery, the White House said in a statement.

"The President commended Dr. Spencer for his selflessness and compassion in fighting this disease on the frontlines in West Africa," the statement said, adding that he believed the best way to protect against Ebola at home was to keep fighting the disease at its source.

In North Carolina, health officials said on Monday that a missionary, Dr. John Fankhauser, 52, of Ventura, California, was deemed to be at "some risk" for developing the disease after returning from Liberia and had been quarantined for 21 days.

There has been only one Ebola death in the United States - Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted the disease in his native Liberia and died during a visit to Dallas.

Medical experts say Ebola can be transmitted only through the bodily fluids of a sick person with symptoms.

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