The American doctor who carried the Ebola virus from Guinea to New York, riding the subway and going bowling before symptoms developed, said the public was never properly educated about the disease.
Dr Craig Spencer, an emergency room physician, penned an article for Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine that blamed politicians and media outlets for fanning fears.
‘When we look back on this epidemic, I hope we’ll recognize that fear caused our initial hesitance to respond – and caused us to respond poorly when we finally did,’ Spencer wrote.
Slammed: Dr Craig Spencer penned an article for the New England Journal of Medicine attacking the media and politicians for alarmist reports and attempts to use the Ebola outbreak for political gain
The emergency room physician treated patients in Guinea with the Doctors without Borders, before returning to the United States last October.
He developed symptoms consistent with those of Ebola and was diagnosed on October 23, just days after arriving in the United States.
Media reports about Spencer’s diagnosis, the first in New York, focused on how he rode the subway, went out to eat and even went bowling between his return and the diagnosis.
Little attention, Spencer argued, was spent on how the disease is known to be transmitted, and that research points to it being ‘nearly impossible for me to have transmitted the virus before I had a fever.’
Spencer also bemoaned how he was described as a ‘a fraud, a hipster and a hero’ at the same time by news reports.
‘The truth is, I am none of those things,’ he said. ‘I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.’
Responding: Spencer traveled to Guinea in order to treat Ebola patients, returning in October and being diagnosed shortly after his arrival in the US
Engaged: Spencer’s fiancee, Morgan Dixon, was admitted to the hospital after Spencer’s diagnosis but was soon released
‘Meanwhile, politicians, caught up in the election season, took advantage of the panic to try to appear presidential instead of supporting a sound, science-based public health response,’ he added.
Following Spencer’s diagnosis, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov Chris Christie announced 21-day quarantines for those arriving in either state after working with Ebola patients.
Each governor painted federal health guidelines as inadequate during their announcements, but Spencer called such talk counter productive.
They ‘enacted strict home quarantine rules without sufficiently considering the unintended side effects,’ namely encouraging those exposed to lie out of fear of quarantine.
The sick, according to Spencer, would opt not to seek treatment while caregivers working with Ebola patients would ‘alter their travel plans or misreport their exposure to avoid quarantine.’
Another voice criticizing politicians’ reactions to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which had caused the deaths of 3,416 in Sierra Leone as well as hitting Liberia and Guinea, was nurse Kaci Hickox.
In an op-ed in the Guardian, Hickox explained her frustration over being labeled the ‘Ebola nurse’ by Gov Christie in spite of her never having symptoms of the virus.
‘This is what did happen: I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians after I volunteered to go and treat people affected by Ebola in west Africa,’ she wrote.
‘Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers,’ she added.
Spencer was released on November 11 having cleared the virus with the help of a blood plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor.
‘We all lose when we allow irrational fear, fueled in part by prime-time ratings and political expediency, to supersede pragmatic public health preparedness,’ Spencer wrote.