NEW YORK (AP) — Officials tamped down New Yorkers' fears Friday after a doctor was diagnosed with Ebola in a city where millions of people squeeze into crowded subways, buses and elevators every day.
The warnings came as Dr. Craig Spencer remained in stable condition while isolated in a hospital, talking by cellphone to his family and assisting disease detectives who are accounting for his every movement since arriving in New York from Guinea via Europe on Oct. 17.
"I want to repeat what I said last night: There is no cause for alarm," by the doctor's diagnosis Thursday, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, even as officials described Spencer riding the subway, taking a cab, bowling, visiting a coffee shop and eating at a restaurant in the past week. "New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person's bodily fluids are simply not at risk."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the city's Ebola diagnosis for Spencer, said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city's health commissioner. And a company contracted to handle medical waste arrived at his Harlem apartment.
Heath officials have repeatedly given assurances that the disease is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, vomit and feces, and that the dried virus survives on surfaces for only a matter of hours.
But some in the nation's most populous city, with more than 8 million people, were not taking any chances.
Friday morning, a group of teenage girls in Catholic school uniforms riding the L subway train passed around a bottle of hand sanitizer. They said they were taking extra precautions because of the Ebola case. It was one of the subway lines the doctor rode after returning home.
The governor and health officials said Spencer, a member of Doctors Without Borders, sought treatment with diarrhea and a 100.3-degree fever — not 103 as officials initially reported Thursday night. The health department blamed a transcription error for the incorrect information. He was being treated in an isolation ward at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, a designated Ebola center.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the doctor "obviously felt he wasn't symptomatic" when he went out "in a limited way."
The governor, in an appearance on CNN's New Day, said there was no reason to fear riding the subway, and he would do so Friday.
But one commuter called riding the subway "a scary thing."
There are "a lot of germs in New York," said Chris Thompson who was riding the L train.
Another subway rider, 41-year-old construction worker T.J. DeMaso expressed concern.
"If the outbreaks get any more common, I'll be moving out of the city," he said. "You could catch it and not even know it. You could bring it home to your kids. That's not a chance I want to take."
Subway rider Alicia Clavell said she hoped it's "an isolated incident."
Health officials say the chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are slim. Someone can't be infected just by being near someone who is sick with Ebola. Someone isn't contagious unless he is sick.
Bassett said the probability was "close to nil" that Spencer's subway rides would pose a risk. The bowling alley has been cleared to open, she said. Spencer's Harlem apartment is cordoned off but no other tenants are at risk, officials said.
Evageline Love also was unconcerned. "I saw the mayor and the governor. What they're saying, I believe, is true. There's no need for hysteria," she said as he rode the L train to work.
The CDC dispatched an Ebola response team to New York. President Barack Obama spoke to Cuomo and de Blasio on Thursday night and offered the federal government's support. He asked them to stay in close touch with Ron Klain, his "Ebola czar," and public health officials in Washington.
Spencer's fiancee and two friends had been quarantined, but showed no symptoms, officials said.
The epidemic in West Africa has killed about 4,800 people. In the United States, the first person diagnosed with the disease was a Liberian man, who fell ill days after arriving in Dallas and later died, becoming the only fatality. None of his relatives who had contact with him got sick. Two nurses who treated him were infected, but one was released from a hospital Friday. The other is still hospitalized.
In the days before Spencer fell ill, he went on a 3-mile jog, went to the High Line park, rode the subway, visited a meatball restaurant and coffee shop. On Wednesday night he took a taxi from a Brooklyn bowling alley. He felt tired starting Tuesday, and felt worse on Thursday morning when he and his fiancee made a joint call to authorities to detail his symptoms and his travels. EMTs in full Ebola gear arrived and took him to Bellevue in an ambulance surrounded by police squad cars.
Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization, said per the guidelines it provides its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, "the individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported this development immediately." Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone must report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a day, as Spencer did. He also limited his direct contact with people, health officials said.
Spencer, 33, works at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He had not seen any patients or been to the hospital since his return, the hospital said in a statement, calling him a "dedicated humanitarian" who "went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population."
Four American aid workers, including three doctors, were infected with Ebola while working in Africa and were transferred to the U.S. for treatment in recent months. All recovered. Health care workers are vulnerable because of close contact with patients when they are their sickest and most contagious.
In West Africa this year, more than 440 health workers have contracted Ebola and about half have died. But the Ebola virus is not very hardy. The CDC says bleach and other hospital disinfectants kill it.
Spencer is from Michigan and attended Wayne State University School of Medicine and Columbia's University Mailman School of Public Health.
According to his Facebook page, he left for West Africa via Brussels last month. A photo shows him in full protective gear. He returned to Brussels Oct. 16.
"Off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders," he wrote. "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."
Associated Press writers Cara Anna, Cameron Young, Jake Pearson, Deepti Hajela, Ula Ilnytzky, Kiley Armstrong and Tom Hays and researcher Susan James contributed to this report.
LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II has sent her first tweet — and she's signed it "Elizabeth R."
The 88-year-old monarch tried her hand at Twitter as she opened a new gallery in central London's Science Museum Friday.
The queen removed a glove to type on a touchscreen tablet, writing "I hope people will enjoy visiting" the exhibition. She sent it through the official British monarchy account on the social media website, as some 600 guests looked on.
"Elizabeth R" is how the queen signs official documents. The "R'' stands for "regina", the Latin for queen.
Most members of the royal family do not tweet personally — they are represented by official accounts managed by spokespeople.
The gallery, called "Information Age," explores the technological breakthroughs that have changed communication.
The queen was the first monarch to send an email, in 1976 when the technology was in its infancy.
Lawn signs touting local and statewide candidates are in full bloom along highways, street corners and other public spaces. It's the sign of the season. And despite legal restrictions, the markers can sprout invasively.
Campaigns hope voters see them as a signal of the community's support for the candidate or issue. But repeat exposure can rub some the wrong way.
"They just mushroom," said Elizabeth Lessner, a central Ohio restaurateur. "It used to be they put one sign on the corner, and now there's 50."
Lessner is one of the Columbus Sign Ninjas, a group that sprang up in the perennial battleground state to take down campaign clutter from public spaces.
State and local sign laws can vary. Ohio, like other states, prohibits such advertising from being placed in the public right of way — which would include interstates and state routes. Officials don't want signs to obstruct drivers' views or present safety hazards.
The ninja members use social media to report signs and occasionally call out campaigns seen as big offenders. Some candidates have apologized on the group's Facebook page, which boasts nearly 300 members, for their sign placement.
Karen Thomas, a Columbus resident and ninja member, has been uprooting stray signs since 2008. Her first take came after she passed multiple markers near the interstate exit for a mall. Thomas recalled, "If I want them to go away, I'm going to have to pull over and pick them up."
So she did. And she continues to snatch signs when she runs errands, carefully avoiding vehicles that whiz by her.
"I don't lollygag," said Thomas, a corporate financial consultant.
It's not just residents who get irked by the signage.
In Providence, Rhode Island, large signs for his opponent led to a complaint from Republican mayoral candidate Dan Harrop. Harrop told the city solicitor's office this week that signs for independent candidate Buddy Cianci far exceed the size allowed by city ordinances. The city agreed and cited at least one homeowner.
Signs are a fast, cheap and easy way to grow name recognition and increase a candidate's visibility in a neighborhood. They've been around since the infancy of the country's democracy, said Benjamin Bates, a professor of communication studies at Ohio University.
Candidates and their supporters will place signs near the roadways because they hope more voters will see them.
"It's sort of the principle that any publicity is good publicity," Bates said.
Ben Donahower, a Pennsylvania-based political consultant who sells lawn signs, said he advises campaigns to place signs on private property. That means supporters have names and faces.
"Any candidate can go out and spend a day putting out a bunch of signs along a highway," Donahower said. "It's a different scenario to talk to somebody and say, 'Do I have your vote?' They say yes. 'Can I put a yard sign out in your yard?' They say yes."
Still, even if irritatingly placed in a public space, Bates said, "you'll definitely remember the name on the sign. Or at least that's what the campaign hopes."
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new church essay says Mormon church founder Joseph Smith had a teenage bride and was married to other men's wives during the early days of the faith when polygamy was practiced.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says most of Smith's wives were adults, but one was a 14-year-old girl who was the daughter of Smith's close friends. Research shows the marriage might not have involved sex.
It's the first time the church has officially acknowledged those facts, although it has not denied previous reports by historians.
Church officials note that while inappropriate by today's standards, marriage among teenage girls was legal and somewhat common during that time.
The essay posted this week is part of a recent push by the Salt Lake City-based religion to explain or expand on sensitive issues within the faith, including its past ban on black men in the lay clergy.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — The attorney for the victim of a sex offender says any assets and inheritance the man has may be seized to settle a $1.8 million civil judgment stemming from five years of abuse.