The United States is now Ebola-free as the last patient with the deadly virus in this country has been cured.
Dr. Craig Spencer, a humanitarian aid worker who returned to the U.S. from Africa last month only to discover that he was infected with Ebola, was given a clean bill of health today at New York City's Bellevue Hospital.
"Today I am healthy and no longer infectious," Spencer said to a crowd of reporters outside of the hospital.
The 33-year-old doctor was infected in Guinea while working with Doctors Without Borders in September and October. He has so far been treated for 19 of the recommended 21 days in quarantine, but health officials say that there is no danger. This point was driven home by hugs given to New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio during the press conference.
"It's a good feeling to hug a hero," the mayor said. "And we have a hero here in our midst."
"While my case has garnered international attention," Spencer added, "it is important to remember that my infection represents but a fraction of the more than 13,000 reported cases to date in West Africa -- the center of the outbreak, where families are being torn apart and communities destroyed."
Spencer spent five weeks in the West African city of Gueckedou while treating Ebola patients. "During this time, I cried as I held children who were not strong enough to survive the virus," he said. "But I also experienced immense joy when patients I treated were cured and invited me into their family as a brother upon discharge. Within a week of my diagnosis, many of these same patients called my personal phone to wish me well and ask if there was any way they could contribute to my care."
Spencer's cure marks the first time the U.S. has had no cases of Ebola since awareness of the epidemic skyrocketed earlier this year. The Centers for Disease Control warns that the threat is still very real, though, as West Africa is still a hot-bed of infection. Screening is in place for all travelers coming into the U.S. from affected countries, and so far, no new infections have been caught.
Ron Klain, the country's newly appointed Ebola czar, said that Spencer's release is a milestone, but we should expect that this isn't the last case to see American soil. Klain is pushing for over $6 billion of the federal budget to be allocated for Ebola treatment and preparation.
After today's press conference, Spencer asked for privacy and stated that he would not be making another public appearance. His fiancee will remain in quarantine until Friday and his two friends and more than 100 members of the New York hospital's medical staff are currently being monitored daily for symptoms throughout the 21-day incubation period.
"Please join me in turning our attention back to West Africa, and ensuring that medical volunteers and other aid workers do not face stigma and threats upon their return home," Spencer concluded. "Volunteers need to be supported to help fight this outbreak at its source."