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NYC health dept disputes report Ebola doc lied

New York City's health department said a doctor being treated for Ebola "cooperated fully" with officials, dismissing a report that he initially lied about his movements.

The New York Post, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, reported Wednesday that Dr. Craig Spencer only admitted having ridden city subways, bowling in Brooklyn and eating in restaurants after authorities found proof he'd done much more than just sit inside his home.

Dr. Craig Spencer is at Bellevue Hospital in New York undergoing treatment for Ebola.
Source: Linkedin
Dr. Craig Spencer is at Bellevue Hospital in New York undergoing treatment for Ebola.

"He told authorities he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around," a source told the Post.

The newspaper's story can be read here.

Asked about the report, Health Department spokeswoman Veronica Lewin said: "Dr. Spencer cooperated fully with the Health Department to establish a timeline of his movements in the days following his return to New York from Guinea, providing his MetroCard, credit cards and cellphone."

"He followed protocol by contacting his employer immediately upon developing fever and remained in his apartment until being transported to the hospital, which is why the chance anyone else contracted Ebola is extremely small. Dr. Spencer is a hero who deserves our thanks and thoughts for a speedy recovery," Lewin said in an email statement to CNBC.

When CNBC asked again if Spencer had at first lied to authorities or otherwise mislead them about his movements in the city, Lewin replied: "Please refer to the statement I just sent. As this states, Dr. Spencer cooperated fully with the Health Department."

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Spencer, 33, is in stable but serious condition at Bellevue Hospital. His fiance and two friends are in quarantine because of contact with him but have not developed symptoms.

Spencer's diagnosis with the deadly Ebola virus last week, and reports that he had freely traveled in public around the Big Apple, ignited an ongoing controversy over whether health-care workers returning from Ebola-plagued countries in West Africa should be subjected to mandatory 21-day quarantines.

The federal government has rejected calls for such a broad quarantine order. But it did issue new recommendations that called for people at "high risk" of infection, such as health-care workers who suffered needle sticks while dealing with Ebola patients, to isolate themselves.

This photo provided by attorney Steven Hyman shows nurse Kaci Hickox in an isolation tent at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., where she was quarantined after flying into Newark Liberty International Airport following her work in West Africa caring for Ebola patients.
Steven Hyman | AP
This photo provided by attorney Steven Hyman shows nurse Kaci Hickox in an isolation tent at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., where she was quarantined after flying into Newark Liberty International Airport following her work in West Africa caring for Ebola patients.

However, New York and New Jersey, as well as several other states, have said they will enforce quarantines.

New Jersey earlier this week released a nurse, Kaci Hickox, from quarantine, allowing her to return home to Maine. Shehad been put in isolation upon her arrival Friday at Newark Liberty International Airport from West Africa.

Hickox, who tested negative for Ebola and has no symptoms, was allowed to travel in a private car to Maine, where she is staying with her boyfriend.

Maine authorities said they are prepared to "pursue legal authority" to enforce a quarantine for Hickox, and posted a state trooper outside the house where she has been staying. Officials said the trooper is monitoring her.

Hickox told NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday that she will go to court if Maine doesn't remove restrictions on her movements by Thursday.

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"I'm not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," Hickox vowed.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage said, "We hoped that the health-care worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols."

"We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community. We are exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being of the health-care worker, anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine. While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state."

In Connecticut, a man sued the Milford school district in federal court after it banned his 7-year-old daughter for three weeks because of concerns that she had attended a wedding in Nigeria. Stephen Opayemi's lawsuit, which demands that his daughter be immediately allowed to return to her third-grade class, says that parents and teachers at the school were worried other kids could catch Ebola from the girl despite her lack of symptoms.

In response to the lawsuit, the Milford school district's superintendent, Elizabeth Feser, said, "We deny this allegation," according to NBC Connecticut.

Nigeria had 20 Ebola cases, and eight deaths from Ebola, but recently was declared free of the virus by the World Health Organization. The last confirmed Ebola case in Nigeria was reported Sept. 5. Nigeria was declared free of Ebola cases on Oct. 20.

The vast majority of cases of Ebola, by far, have been in three West African countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Out of 13,703 Ebola cases reported worldwide in the current outbreak, 13,676 occurred in those three countries, according to WHO. The death toll from those cases is likely to be updated to more than 5,000 later Wednesday, according to officials.

Just one of the deaths, of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, occurred in the United States. The two nurses who contracted Ebola in a Dallas hospital while treating Duncan—Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson—have been treated and released from hospitals.

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Health officials have repeatedly stressed that people with Ebola cannot transmit the virus without having symptoms of the disease, and have noted how difficult it is to contract the disease, even from someone with symptoms.

In Monrovia, Liberia, on Tuesday, the United State's ambassador to the United Nations was asked at a press conference if she would be quarantined when she returned to the U.S.

The ambassador, Samantha Power, said: "Well, let me say that I will obey the law and whatever requirements are in place. I think some of the circumstances in the United States are quite fluid. The federal government is in communication with the states through which people returning or visiting from the region are coming, and so we will continue to remain abreast of the requirements as they evolve."