Sunday, October 26, 2014

No mandatory Ebola quarantine for health workers coming to Washington area

OCT. 24, 2014

A New York doctor is the latest person in the U.S. with a confirmed case of Ebola, while a nurse is declared free of the virus.

Oct. 25, 2014From left, Daniel Holzman, co-owner of the Meatball Shop; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; his wife, Chirlane McCray; and New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett talk at the restaurant where Craig Spencer, an Ebola patient, ate before he became ill with the virus. Craig Ruttle/AP
By Spencer S. Hsu and Nia-Malika Henderson October 25

One day after governors in New York, New Jersey and Illinois imposed a mandatory 21-day quarantine on medical workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, public health officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia did not follow suit Saturday, intensifying a national debate over how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Health officials are working to develop a consistent approach for the area around the nation’s capital. Joxel Garcia, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said that a mandatory quarantine was not scientifically justified and could have a chilling effect on the medical personnel, many of them volunteers, needed to treat Ebola patients at home and overseas.

The differing views highlight challenges confronting federal and state politicians as well as health officials as they race to keep up with fast-changing circumstances and competing political, scientific and legal demands, experts said.

That debate sharpened Saturday as the first person affected by the quarantine requirement in New York and New Jersey — a nurse who tested negative for the Ebola virus but remained under quarantine after landing Friday at Newark Liberty International Airport — authored an angry first-person account in the Dallas Morning News about how she was forcibly transported by an eight-police car caravan to the hospital.

“I am scared about how health-care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa,” wrote the nurse, Kaci Hickox, who volunteered with Doctors Without Borders. “I wondered what I had done wrong. . . . I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.”

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