Speed Reads

medical alert

New York City may have its first Ebola case — but don't freak out

A man who recently traveled to West Africa was admitted to the emergency room in Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital late Sunday with a high fever and gastrointestinal problems, symptoms that are consistent with the Ebola virus.

The patient, whom The New York Times did not identify out of respect for his privacy, is currently being tested for the virus in isolation. The hospital would not elaborate on which country he had traveled to, what he was doing there, or if he was exposed to the virus while in the region.

"We will continue to work closely with federal, state, and city health officials to address and monitor this case, keep the community informed, and provide the best quality care to all of our patients," Dorie Klissas, a spokesperson for the hospital, told The New York Times. "All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff."

Even if the Mount Sinai patient ends up being diagnosed with Ebola, though, Americans shouldn't panic about the potential spread of this dangerous disease. While Ebola isn't exactly innocuous, it's far less contagious than other diseases with serious epidemic potential, like bird flu or MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). And since Ebola can only be transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, vomit, and feces — not through coughing or sneezing — it's unlikely that anyone who isn't a health-care worker would come into contact with the disease.

In fact, many of the reasons for Ebola's deadly spread are sociocultural. Doctors in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia have never experienced outbreaks of the disease before, and therefore may not be trained in how to diagnose and treat it. Some Africans also must bury their dead on their own, meaning they may contract the disease while laying a family member to rest.