NYC Ebola Patient Passing Time in Isolation Playing Banjo: Reports

Officials expect doctor, who became infected while working in West Africa, will be released soon

Dennis Thompson

Dennis Thompson

Updated on November 06, 2014

THURSDAY, Nov. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A New York City doctor who became infected with Ebola while treating patients in West Africa apparently feels well enough now to ride a stationary bike, practice yoga and play the banjo while under quarantine.

Dr. Craig Spencer, who has been undergoing treatment at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, has been strumming his favorite tunes in his hospital room this week, according to the New York Post.

"He is an avid little banjo player and he's self-taught," Chriselle Gardner, the mother of Spencer's fiancee Morgan Dixon, told The Post. "I can tell you, he's keeping his doctors amused."

The 33-year-old Spencer has been receiving treatments that have proven effective for Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He became infected while working with Ebola patients in Guinea, one of three West African countries ravaged by the outbreak that has caused more than 13,000 infections and nearly 5,000 deaths.

In related news, the Texas Department of State Health Services on Thursday said that, "the last person being monitored in connection with the state's three diagnosed Ebola patients will be cleared from twice-daily monitoring by the end of the day Friday."

The three Texas patients included Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital on Oct. 8, and two of his nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who became infected but have since recovered. In total, 177 people who were deemed at risk because they were in close contact with at least one of the three patients were being monitored, the health department said in a statement.

By late Friday, all of these contacts will have reached the 21-day mark, the longest incubation period for Ebola, officials said.

Spencer is the only Ebola patient currently being treated in the United States. He was working for Doctors Without Borders. He returned to New York City on Oct. 14, and by Oct. 23 had developed a 100.3-degree fever. He immediately alerted Doctors Without Borders. Emergency medical workers in full personal protective gear transported him from his Manhattan apartment to an isolation unit at Bellevue Hospital, The New York Times reported.

Before Spencer developed symptoms, he visited a park and ate at a restaurant in Manhattan, traveled by subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and then took a taxi back to Manhattan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says someone infected with Ebola is not contagious until they show symptoms, such as fever.

Spencer's diagnosis and travels throughout New York City prompted the governors of New York and New Jersey to declare a mandatory quarantine for travelers exposed to Ebola in West Africa.

Faced with pressure from the White House and criticism from U.S. infectious disease experts, the governors -- Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey -- eased their quarantine measures that required all medical workers returning from West Africa who had contact with Ebola patients to be forced into isolation.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for $6.2 billion in emergency funds to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and to protect the United States against the possible spread of the deadly disease, the Associated Press reported.

Of that, more than $4.6 billion would be used to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, speed development and testing of vaccines and other treatments, improve the public health system in the United States and help at-risk countries detect and respond to Ebola.

The World Bank also announced Wednesday it will offer about $450 million in private sector financing to speed the recovery of the three West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, the AP reported.

The package will include $250 million in rapid response projects and at least $200 million in investment projects to support the economic recovery once the Ebola outbreak is controlled, according to the World Bank, which is the financial arm of the United Nations and provides loans to developing countries.

"Ebola is a humanitarian crisis first and foremost, but it's also an economic disaster for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement. "That's why in addition to our emergency aid, we will do all we can to help support the private sector in these countries to build back their business."

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the World Health Organization.

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