(Photo: Jennifer S. Altman/The New York Times)
Denis Leary used to say that one of the best things about living in New York City is that there are so many interesting ways to die there. I came to really appreciate this fact when, within the span of a couple of weeks back in the late-00s, one of my fellow New Yorkers was electrocuted by a manhole cover, another fell through a subway grate and a small plane crashed into the high-rise directly across from where I lived. If it's a deadly threat, it's only a matter of time before it turns up in one of the five boroughs. So it only makes sense that Ebola has finally fulfilled its viral destiny and arrived in the one place in the United States where it could conceivably do the most damage and cause the most panic.
A New York City doctor who recently returned from Guinea where he was treating Ebola patients has just been diagnosed with the disease, becoming the city's first official case of it. According to The New York Times, 33-year-old Craig Spencer began feeling sluggish on Tuesday morning but didn't develop a full-blown fever of 103 along with vomiting and gastrointestinal pain until this morning. He was immediately taken to Bellevue Hospital, which is the designated treatment center for Ebola patients in New York City. The hospital has a special isolation ward and is equipped to handle samples of the disease.
That's the reassuring news. The admittedly not-quite-as-reassuring news is that Spencer reportedly took the subway from Manhattan into Brooklyn last night to go bowling. It remains to be seen whether he could be considered symptomatic as of last night, but healthcare workers are now fanning out across the city to try to track down anyone who might have come into direct contact with him. If you've ever ridden a New York City subway, you know that direct physical contact is practically a guarantee, but obviously that in no way means that people were ever in danger of being infected. Also falling into the damn-disconcerting column is the fact that Spencer was apparently very sick when he showed up at the hospital this morning, leading the medical staff there to question why he hadn't come in to the hospital sooner.
While calm here is still not only important but a completely reasonable response, there are eight-and-a-half million people in New York City, all stacked up on top of each other. Ebola doesn't transmit easily but there's little doubt it could transmit easier in a place like New York. I'll avoid the obvious crack about how if it's going to make it anywhere, it'll make it there. The city is also a major hub for travel across the country and around the world. The thing is, New York City health officials have been preparing for months for the possibility of an Ebola outbreak and it's important to keep in mind that there's very little chance it will spread beyond this one person who got it from coming into direct contact with patients dying of the disease and their bodily fluids.
That of course is the most infuriating thing, though: that a trained medical professional from Doctors Without Borders could have gone to Guinea and treated Ebola patients, then come back to New York City and not only not at least semi-quarantined himself but actually made the decision to go out in public when he was feeling "sluggish." If this disease does manage to spread, that's how it's going to happen: human stupidity and irresponsibility. Either way, same drill as before: keep calm, because an irrational panic spreading through New York City would be as bad as any disease.
On that note, look for Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Elisabeth Hasselbeck to all be wearing level-4 biohazard suits tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends.
Oh, and here's The Huffington Post's front page right now, about four times larger than this:
RELATED: Shepard Smith made a powerful appeal for calm and an end to the media's alarmist Ebola rhetoric last week. You can see that here. Also, Republicans continue to push for a travel ban to Ebola-affected areas. Read about that here.