Earlier today, a 33-year-old doctor named Craig Spencer, who had recently spent time treating Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for the disease in New York City. He’d ridden the A train; he’d gotten an Uber; he went bowling. It sounds grim. And there’s cause for concern. But it’s not as bad as you think.
We’ve written extensively about why Ebola fears are almost always overblown; a refresher about how the disease is transmitted is below to help keep today’s news in perspective. The short version: it requires direct contact, through bodily fluids, of someone who is already symptomatic. That means that if you were on the same train, rode in the same Uber, or rolled strikes a few lanes down, you have nothing to worry about.
That’s why Spencer’s fiance has been quarantined, but the subway system is still running. And it’s why the people who tend to him at Bellevue Hospital need to take every precaution. Spencer will continue to become more contagious, and if the brief history of Ebola here has taught us anything it’s that its caretakers need to take every precaution to avoid getting sick themselves.
What this is almost certainly not, though, is some sort of of watershed moment for Ebola in America. It’s a terrible thing that someone else has contracted this disease within our borders. And it wouldn’t be surprising if someone close to him also becomes symptomatic soon. But you’re going to be just fine. For even more reassurance, you can see the full science behind why below.
Picture: Inside an isolation ward where another Ebola patient was transported after becoming ill in Africa, via University of Nebraska Medical Center