The fear that surrounds Ebola — a disease that is incredibly deadly and not very contagious, a plague that has killed thousands yet is difficult to contract — is understandably exacerbated whenever a new case is diagnosed. The realization that one person contracted it opens up the possibility that other people may have gotten it as well; the fact that people are rarely stationary reminds us that a person with the virus can board a commercial flight, ride in a subway, take a taxi and otherwise exist in the same world as you and everyone you know and love. At the same time, anxiety breeds paranoia and paranoia begets panic, clouding the realities on the ground.
All of which is to say that, as of Friday morning, there is now only one confirmed case of Ebola in the United States.
Craig Spencer, a doctor who had fought the virus in Guinea, was diagnosed Thursday in New York City. He is the fourth person diagnosed in the United States.
Two nurses who had cared for Thomas Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the country, had contracted Ebola during Duncan’s treatment. Nina Pham, the first nurse diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, was declared “virus free” on Friday morning, according to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, was said to be virus free two days earlier. Duncan, the “index patient” in Dallas, who had flown from Liberia to Texas last month, died eight days after he was diagnosed.
Dozens of people who had contact with Duncan — including several who had been in the apartment with him as he was exhibiting symptoms, which is when a person can become contagious — were deemed not at risk of developing Ebola earlier this week, after making it through the 21-day window when experts say the virus emerges.
Public health officials continue monitoring the people who had contact with Duncan during his treatment and with the nurses and, as of Thursday, began to watch three people who had contact with Spencer. The United States has likely not seen its last case of Ebola. Other diagnoses are expected in the coming weeks and months, authorities say, as the virus continues to ravage West Africa. But amid fear and panic, it is worth remembering that — if you are reading this in the United States — unless your name is Craig Spencer, you presumably do not have Ebola.