Kaci Hickox, a U.S. nurse challenged quarantines of health care workers returning from the Ebola devastated Western Africa by stating that “An abundance of politics lurked behind these quarantines.”
The nurse was involved in a heated public battle over what she considers draconian measures to isolate her for 21 days after her return from Sierra Leone, in a case that highlights the dilemma over how to balance public health needs and personal liberty.
New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie has imposed strict quarantines on health workers returning from three Ebola-ravaged West African countries, but the U.S. federal government opposes such measures.
“When Governor Christie stated that it was an abundance of caution, which is his reasoning for putting health care workers in a sort of quarantine for three weeks, it was really an abundance of politics,” Hickox said.
“And I think all of the scientific and medical and public health community agrees with me on that statement,” she said.
Governor Christie has defended his decision to impose a mandatory three-week quarantine, stating that purely relying on a voluntary system may or may not work and that protecting health and safety is the government’s job.
The most deadly outbreak of Ebola on record has killed nearly 5,000 people, all but a handful of them in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Hickox tested negative for Ebola after returning recently from working for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone. But she was placed in an isolation tent in New Jersey when she returned before being allowed to leave for Maine, which also sought to quarantine her at home.
A judge in Maine on Friday rejected that state’s bid to quarantine Hickox, instead imposing limited restrictions on her. The judge said that Hickox must continue direct monitoring of her health, coordinate travel plans with health officials and report any symptoms.