Following my first post about Ebola in NYC, quite a bit has occurred. New Jersey & New York Governors, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo respectively, demanded that all healthcare workers coming through JFK and Newark from West Africa must be quarantined 21 days upon arrival, something I suggested in my first post.
Since my post and the governor edicts, we’ve had the first test of the new law. Kaci Hickox, a nurse from Maine, arrived at Newark after having treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and was promptly placed in an isolation tent. There was a public outcry at her treatment and a threat by her and her attorney to sue for her rights. The state relented and allowed her to travel home. Now Maine wants her to quarantine herself at home but she’s refusing to submit to that.
I agree with those that say we should treat healthcare professionals that risk their life to serve others like we do returning troops. Common sense tells us though that we should take care that the risks they took does not impact the rest of us. So while my first inclination was to quarantine returning healthcare workers, based on what we know about how the disease spreads (after symptoms materialize and through fluids from the infected individual), what may be more palatable to Americans, and more importantly to the healthcare workers, is mandatory monitoring during the 21 days of their return. Any uptick in fever requires immediate isolation, any failure to report for required monitoring results in immediate quarantine. For purposes of tracking movement for later followups if needed, a GPS tracking device affixed upon arrival in the states.
We need to balance between protecting citizens and not discouraging healthcare professionals from volunteering to help in West Africa. The best way to make sure Ebola does not spread here is to stop it there.