A Manhattan doctor who underwent 19 days of Ebola treatment was declared free of the deadly virus and discharged Tuesday from Bellevue Hospital Center to hugs, handshakes and cheers.
Dr. Craig Spencer, the city's only confirmed Ebola patient and a Doctors Without Borders volunteer who spent five weeks in Guinea, called himself a "living example" of how protocols to detect and contain infection among health care workers returning from West Africa can be effective.
"Today, I am healthy and no longer infectious," he said at a news conference at the Manhattan hospital.
Spencer, 33, returned afterward to his West Harlem apartment. His fiancee, Morgan Dixon, was removed Tuesday from quarantine at their home but will be monitored by health officials until Friday. She has shown no symptoms of Ebola.
Spencer sought to divert attention toward Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic. He emphasized that he is just one of more than 13,000 reported infections worldwide.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has encouraged health care workers to fight Ebola abroad and defended those stigmatized upon their returns, pulled Spencer into a hearty hug.
"It's a very, very good day," de Blasio said. "Dr. Spencer is Ebola-free and New York City is Ebola-free."
Spencer reflected on his time in Guinea, saying he cried as he held "children not strong enough to survive the virus," but felt "immense joy when patients I treated were cured and invited me into their family as a brother upon discharge."
He thanked the Bellevue staff who cared for him with hugs and back pats. About 100 people, including the emergency medical services team that rushed him to Bellevue on Oct. 23 with a fever, aided in his recovery, said city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
City Department of Health workers fanned out in the blocks surrounding Spencer's apartment, passing out fliers reading, "Ebola: Am I at Risk?" and a letter from Bassett explaining that Spencer is free to come and go as he pleases.
Ryan McVerry, 24, a website programmer who lives in Spencer's building, called the doctor a hero for going to Africa to treat Ebola patients.
"The best thing I could do is go to my building as if nothing is wrong," he said of Spencer's homecoming. "There's no need to stir up a panic."
Ebola is extremely difficult to contract, health officials say.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, where Spencer is an attending physician, in a statement said it looks "forward to his return to work after he has had sufficient time to resume a normal routine."
Health officials would not detail Spencer's course of treatment but said he had the best possible medicines and procedures available to him. Bassett noted the higher survival rate in the United States -- compared to West Africa -- is due in part to better "supportive care" such as fluid management and blood replacement.
The city currently has 289 New Yorkers under "active monitoring," with health workers checking in on them regularly. Most of them have returned recently from West Africa. None have symptoms of Ebola.
With Ellen Yan