New York's Hero Ebola Doc Blasts Media, Govs. Cuomo, Christie

Craig Spencer, MD, the Manhattan emergency physician who contracted Ebola as a volunteer in Guinea, West Africa, says he has recovered from the illness -- but not from his treatment in the press. He is not too happy with the actions of New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo or New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie either.

Craig Spencer, MD, the Manhattan emergency physician who contracted Ebola as a volunteer in Guinea, West Africa says he has recovered from the illness—but not his treatment in the press. He is not too happy with the actions of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie either.

Spencer had not spoken publicly about his Ebola ordeal other than a brief appearance in a news conference when he was discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center on Nov. 4, 2014.

He had been hospitalized there Oct. 23, 2014, taken to a special unit in a cavalcade of emergency vehicles, their lights blazing. Video and photographs of the spectacle, and of police putting up crime-scene tape to block off access to his apartment, heightened the public’s sense of danger.

Breaking his silence in an essay published in New England Journal of Medicine Spencer said he felt victimized when he learned people were criticizing him for being out and about prior to becoming ill.

“Though I didn’t know it then—I had no television and was too weak to read the news—during the first few days of my hospitalization, I was being vilified in the media” Spencer wrote.

“My activities before I was hospitalized were widely reported and highly criticized,” Spencer wrote, “People excoriated me for going out in the city when I was symptomatic, but I hadn’t been symptomatic, just sad,” he continued, explaining that his experience caring for patients in Guinea had left him feeling depressed for the first time in his life.

“I was labeled a fraud, a hipster, and a hero,” he said, though “the truth is I am none of those things.”

He accuses the media of failing to use his illness as a teaching moment, a chance to educate people about Ebola and instead “debating whether Ebola can be transmitted through a bowling ball.”

(He had gone bowling in Brooklyn shortly before becoming ill.)

Spencer went on to blame the media for inciting the governors of New York and New Jersey to enact what he believes were poorly thought-out quarantine policies.

“I know how real the fear of Ebola is, but we need to overcome it,” he wrote. “We all lose when we allow irrational fear, fueled in part by prime-time ratings and political expediency, to supersede pragmatic public health preparedness.”

In the essay, Spencer also offers medical details about his illness and attacks the concept of quarantining returning Ebola volunteers.

“Instead of being welcomed as respected humanitarians, my US colleagues who have returned home from battling Ebola have been treated as pariahs,” he said.

He urges the public to have faith that doctors know enough about infection to avoid exposing others to Ebola, such as self-monitoring their temperatures. “It worked for me,” he said.