A Brooklyn bowling alley closed up shop Thursday night for cleaning when it was discovered that New York City’s first Ebola patient had visited the popular spot the night before he was rushed to the hospital. Health officials are working to retrace Dr. Craig Spencer’s steps, and three contacts have already been quarantined. New Yorkers are now asking: Can you get Ebola from a bowling ball?

The Gutter, a bar in Williamsburg with eight vintage bowling lanes, apologized to its customers via Facebook late Thursday, saying the decision to close “was simply a precautionary measure.” Spencer went bowling Wednesday night before he had any symptoms, according to health officials. The Gutter has been in “constant contact” with New York City Department of Health officials, who determined staff and customers are not at risk. Still, the business closed its doors Thursday night to have the bar area cleaned and sanitized under the health department’s supervision. They expect to reopen sometime on Friday, according to the Facebook post.

Many people posted on the Gutter’s Facebook page to show their support and appreciation. One fan wrote: “Thank you for caring enough to close and sanitize!” Some were annoyed at Spencer: “I am so sorry you are going to be affected by the act of one stupid person.” And others speculated whether sanitizing the bar would be enough: “What if his feet were sweaty in a pair of rental shoes?... Are you going to replace all of the shoes since you don’t know which pair he wore?”

A New York Times article delved deeper, asking: “Can you get Ebola from a bowling ball?” The short answer: No. According to Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter for the newspaper, it is unlikely because the virus is fragile and normally doesn’t survive for more than a few hours on a hard, dry surface such as a bowling ball. Also, experts say the disease cannot be transmitted before the appearance of symptoms and Spencer was symptom-free the night he bowled.

Spencer, a New York City-based physician, contracted Ebola while working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea to help contain the deadly outbreak. Spencer returned to the city on Oct. 16 and showed no signs of the disease until Thursday, when he was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center with a fever and diarrhea. Spencer, 33, tested positive for Ebola and was isolated immediately, said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference Thursday night. Officials are still working to piece together Spencer’s movements and contact since he left West Africa. Spencer’s fiancé and two friends have already been quarantined.

The mayor assured the city there was no need to panic. “There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed. Ebola is an extremely hard disease to contract,” de Blasio said. “Bellevue Hospital is specially designed for isolation, identification and treatment of Ebola patients. Every hospital in the city is prepared in the event that other patients come forward.”

Panic has quickly turned into a torrent of jokes for some on social media.





Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the risk of contracting Ebola in the United States is almost zero.