A doctor who returned to New York City recently after treating Ebola patients in West Africa tested positive for the virus on Thursday, becoming the first Ebola patient in New York City. Since then, officials and experts have urged New Yorkers not to panic, saying the virus does not spread easily and that their daily routines — such as taking the subway — should not be interrupted. The Wall Street Journal spoke with three Ebola experts on what New Yorkers need to know.
1 Riding the subway or walking through big crowds does not put you at high risk of contracting Ebola
The virus is transmitted when a person showing symptoms of Ebola releases bodily fluids to susceptible people within three feet or for a long period of time. “I would feel almost zero risk in a subway,” said Kristina Talbert-Slagle, a senior scientific officer at the Yale School of Public Health.
While it might be nerve-wracking for New Yorkers to stand in a big crowd, a person showing symptoms of Ebola is unlikely to be alongside them. “Vomiting and diarrhea are the symptoms,” Ms. Talbert-Slagle said. “That is not something that is going to happen to someone walking through a crowd.”
2 More cases from Africa are possible
While the virus is not easily transmitted in areas with safety protocols and strong health care systems in place, it has ravaged parts of West Africa, where many Americans have headed to help. As a result, health experts anticipate seeing continued cases coming from that region.
3 Panic won’t help
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials have driven home the message that New Yorkers shouldn’t panic. John Sellick, a medical professor at the University of Buffalo, said wearing a mask or protective suit is “silly.” “We are all at very low-risk of getting Ebola,” Ms. Talbert-Slagle said. “Being afraid is the more contagious thing.”
4 New York City has a stronger health system than parts of Africa
While Ebola has ravaged parts of West Africa, most health experts say that’s the fault of a health care system ill-equipped for a deadly virus. “We are lucky, in the U.S. that we are not facing that kind of challenge,” said Ms. Talbert-Slagle.
5 New Yorkers nervous about protecting themselves should follow basic health precautions
Mr. de Blasio and health experts have recommended that New Yorkers follow basic health protocols, such as getting a flu shot and washing hands, to avoid catching an ailments with the same symptoms as Ebola.
Preventing other illnesses can help ease crowding at area hospitals and lessen public anxiety, they said. “The best precaution is really to practice careful hygiene,” said Anthony Santella, a professor of public health at Hofstra University.