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Health care worker in N.Y.C. being tested for Ebola

A New York health-care worker is being tested for Ebola as a medical relief group said a volunteer who had been in West Africa reported a fever.

Paramedics from a special unit wearing protective gear brought the patient, who returned from an Ebola-stricken country within the past three weeks, to Bellevue Hospital Center, according to a city news release. Results of the test were expected within 12 hours, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in the statement, which was sent today at 3:19 p.m. in New York.

“We’re aware of the case and we’re working with the New York City health department,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re consulting with them as they assess the case and any plan to test the patient will be announced by the New York authorities.”

The New York office of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, a relief group on the epidemic’s front lines, said in a statement that its volunteer reported feeling ill to the organization after discovering the fever during self- monitoring. Doctors Without Borders immediately notified the city, according to a news release from Tim Shenk, a spokesman.

The New York Post identified the patient as Craig Spencer.

A person with the same name on Facebook posted a picture on Sept. 18, saying he was off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders.

“Please support organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history,” wrote Spencer, next to a photo in which he was wearing a protective gown, face shield, eye mask and gloves.

He next posted Oct. 16 from a hotel in Brussels.

On Facebook and LinkedIn, Spencer lists jobs at Columbia University. On LinkedIn, he describes himself as a fellow in international emergency medicine at Columbia University-New York Presbyterian Hospital and has worked in that role since July 2011.

The hospital is looking into the case, according to an emailed statement from Douglas Levy, a Columbia spokesman.

Almost 10,000 people in West Africa have been infected with Ebola and about half have died, according to the World Health Organization.

Wednesday, the CDC said anyone traveling to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea would be monitored for 21 days, the maximum incubation for the virus. Travelers leaving the countries are already checked at the airport before boarding, and about 36,000 people have been screened.

The agency has tested about 50 people for Ebola over the past few months after anxiety over the virus increased sharply last month when a Liberian man brought the disease to Dallas, according to Barbara Reynolds, a spokeswoman. New York health workers are tracing all the patient’s contacts, according to Bassett’s statement.

Bellevue, an 828-bed Midtown hospital, has been designated as the facility for Ebola treatment in New York, a city of 8.4 million. It has four single-bed rooms in its infectious disease ward to receive high-probability or confirmed cases of the virus and and on-site laboratory to handle possible Ebola blood samples, according to New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

The outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013, and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 9,900 people have been infected in West Africa, of which nearly 5,000 have died, according to a Oct. 22 World Health Organization report. There have been 1,540 cases in Guinea and 904 deaths.