Ebola was first identified in Africa nearly 40 years ago and doctors admit they have a lot to learn about the virus. But there are many things they do know and that they want the public to be reassured by the facts. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Talk to any doctor and they will tell you that New Yorkers should be more concerned about the flu virus than the Ebola virus. Ebola is potentially deadly to be sure and Doctor Craig Spencer, who is now quarantined at Bellevue Hospital, contracted it only because he presumably came into contact with body fluids while treating infected patients.
Dr. Irwin Redlener of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who is also the Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, says it's critical that the public understands that Dr. Spencer's fever was 100.3 and not 103 as originally reported.
"So before you get any symptoms or any even very low grade fever where you are in that incubation stage - you are not communicable - so no matter what kind of contact he had with people is highly unlikely that anybody would get any kind of illness from him. The fact that even the day he came into the hospital and did not have severe symptoms, he had a very low grade fever, is an indication this is a very recent occurrence - recent on set," Dr. Redlener said.
It's also important to note that Ebola is not airborne nor is it spread by water. As far as the life cycle of the illness it thrives in dark and moist places and can be easily killed by hospital disinfectants -- even bleach can destroy it.
"Science says that on a hard surface that a dry hard surface that virus will live for two - to four hours and that's it. And the amount of virus that he would be putting out if he was sweating and if he had it on his hand and touched the pole and somebody else grabbed it, someone getting Ebola from that is almost zero," Dr. Redlener said.
Doctors say there's no need to wear masks and rubber gloves in the subway, but they do suggest preparing for the flu.
"We're coming into flu season now and the possibility of having a lot of confusion with patients with flu symptoms and are worried about Ebola. We could eliminate a lot of confusion and get a lot more clarity if everyone got their flu shots so that wasn't an issue that would be in the picture when we're trying to assess an individual patient," Dr. Redlener said.
If there is a lesson in all of this doctors are encouraging New Yorkers to get their flu shot. The CDC estimates flu associated deaths range from 3,000 to as high as 49,000 deaths every year. And even with Ebola ravaging Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Health Organization estimates about 7,000 deaths combined so far.
Nina Pham, the nurse in Texas who contracted it, has now been declared Ebola free and was just released from the hospital Friday.