As fear of the Ebola virus spreads around the globe, residents here are dealing with the anxiety first-hand. Last week, a doctor who lives near campus turned out to be the first confirmed case of a patient with the disease in Harlem. “This is crazy,” says Tobi Ogun, 23, an MCA major at CCNY and longtime Harlem resident. “This guy has Ebola and he lives relatively close to where I live and go to school.”
The patient, Craig Spencer, a doctor who recently traveled back to Harlem from West Africa, contracted the virus while treating sufferers of Ebola. When Spencer returned to his residence on 147th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, he started to show symptoms of the disease and took himself to the emergency room for treatment.
Health officials stress that the disease isn’t transmitted through casual contact, but with CCNY only a few blocks away, fear of an outbreak on campus seems to be a real concern for some students. “I’m shocked his building wasn’t quarantined,” says a City College student who asked not to be identified. “I go to school not to far from where he lives, what if the virus spreads to campus?”
The overwhelming fear of the potential spread of Ebola prompted CCNY officials to send out an email to students, faculty and staff from the office of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety. “The City College of New York and the City University of New York (CUNY) are closely monitoring information and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” noted Richard Belgrave, director of the environmental health office, in an email blast to students and faculty. “The likelihood of becoming infected with Ebola virus is small.”
He added that “unless the person has traveled to an outbreak area and has had direct contact with blood or body secretions from an Ebola infected person or animal, or with objects that were wet with blood or bodily fluids of someone ill with Ebola” the risk remains extremely low.
Even though the spread of the virus from Spencer’s apartment to the CCNY campus is highly unlikely–and his apartment was recently sanitized–some students still don’t feel 100% safe. “They say you can’t get Ebola through the air etc., but who is to say he didn’t touch something in a public space with his bodily fluids?” says a student who wished not to be identified. “I don’t want to take any chances especially since someone infected is now in Harlem.”
Read more information on Ebola and how the disease spreads on the CCNY website.