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updated 10/23/2014 5:15:28 PM ET 2014-10-23T21:15:28

A doctor who recently arrived in the United States from West Africa is being tested for Ebola at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, according to the city's health department.

The doctor has a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. He was transferred to the hospital by the city's Emergency Medical Services, and preliminary Ebola test results are expected in the next 12 hours, according to a statement from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A team specialized in working in hazardous environments (called Hazardous Material Tactical Units or Haz Tac) was in charge of the patient's transport to the hospital.

Although it remains unclear whether the doctor has Ebola, the health department reminded the public that people cannot become infected with the disease simply by being near someone who has it.

"The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim. Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person," the statement said. The doctor returned to the United States sometime within the past three weeks from one of the three countries currently affected by the Ebola outbreak. [ 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Full Coverage of the Viral Epidemic ]

People in the United States who have recently been to one of those countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia — and develop a fever are to be evaluated for the possibility of Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the doctor is also being evaluated for other illness that might have caused his symptoms, for example salmonella, malaria or the stomach flu, the health department said.

Health officials are also looking into who might have been in contact with the doctor, in case he tests positive for Ebola.

"As a further precaution, beginning today, the Health Department's team of disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient's contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk," according to the statement.

Bellevue Hospital is the designated facility to isolate and treat potential cases of Ebola in New York. The hospital has four single-bed rooms in its infectious disease ward to receive Ebola patients. A new laboratory has been constructed in the same area to handle blood samples to be tested for the virus, according to an earlier announcement from NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Yesterday, the CDC announced that starting Monday, Oct. 27, everyone arriving from countries with an ongoing Ebola epidemic will be monitored daily for three weeks for potential symptoms.

Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+.Originally published on Live Science.

© 2012 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.

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