Dr. Craig Spencer set off a media firestorm back in October when he was admitted to Bellevue Hospital in New York City for a slight fever. After spending five weeks treating Ebola patients in West Africa, Spencer had returned home and was monitoring himself carefully for symptoms of the virus when he noticed his temperature. “I felt - other than having a fever and feeling a little tired, I felt fine,” he says.
From there, the story spun beyond his control, and incited mass panic of an imminent epidemic in New York City, despite the fact that it wasn't possible for Spencer to infect others at that time. Instead, politicians seized the opportunity to enact new quarantine measures with scant attention to the reality of how the disease operates.
And thanks to the media circus and the tabloid press, Spencer was hailed not as a hero, but as a public health threat. “People thought I should be - I forget what the exact tweet was - tried for manslaughter,” says Spencer. “To this day I have yet to see anything about my treatment that is 100% factual.”
Dr. Les Roberts, who taught Spencer at Columbia, was in Sierra Leone when news of Spencer’s quarantine broke. Even from across the world, at the center of the epidemic, the media hype was palpable. “The Sierra Leoneans were laughing at us,” he says, “and they took this pretty seriously.”
Listen to more from Spencer about his experience at the center of the media maelstrom and his experience in isolation here: