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New York City Ebola Diagnosis Prompts Fears - and Shrugs

Reaction to the news that a doctor tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus in New York was met with indifference to wariness over subway commutes.

New Yorkers living near a Brooklyn neighborhood visited by an Ebola-sickened doctor just a day before his diagnosis shrugged off fears that the virus could become widespread.

“I'm not worried, but I think this might unfortunately be a necessary wake up call for New York,” Kyle Mackie, a 20-something Greenpoint resident told NBC News Thursday outside The Gutter bowling alley in Williamsburg, which was visited by Dr. Craig Spencer Wednesday.

“It’s kind of amazing it hasn’t reached New York by now,” she said.

Spencer, 33, tested positive for the deadly virus Thursday, six days after he returned to New York from Guinea, one of the countries suffering an outbreak of the disease which has killed more than 4,800 people worldwide.

During his time back Spencer went for a three-hour jog, visited the popular High Line elevated park, and on Wednesday he went bowling with friends at The Gutter, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, said.

Claire Horn, a 24-year-old graduate student waiting for a subway in Midtown Manhattan, said she would be more aware and may wash her hands more but didn't "think there should be cause for panic."

But Robert Campbell, a 54-year-old cleaner at a bakery in Manhattan, said he was shocked to hear the news. "That's scary," he said as he stood outside the stop for his subway, which he rides daily from Brooklyn to get to work.

"You don't know who you are sitting next to (on the subway),” he said. “If I see anyone sneezing, I’m walking away.”

Officials have sought to reassure Americans that the chances of contracting the disease are slim.

Earlier Thursday, before news broke of the New York case, a top Health and Human Services official assured lawmakers that government agencies are preparing for any contingency. Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response, gave prepared testimony for a hearing Friday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Ebola is a dangerous disease, but there is hardly a reason for panic," Lurie said. "There is an epidemic of fear, but not of Ebola, in the United States."


— Becky Bratu and Miranda Leitsinger

The Associated Press contributed to this report.