Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was held in quarantine in New Jersey after returning from Sierra Leone, now plans to file a federal lawsuit as she believes that her quarantine violated her civil rights.
Held for Ebola Monitoring
Hickox was held for Ebola monitoring on her return to the USA after she was questioned at Newark airport and, she says, misdiagnosed with fever, which led her to be transferred to a hospital isolation tent.
Hickox, upon being released, hired a civil rights lawyer, Normal Siegel, who is well known in his field. Siegel stated that what the authorities put his client through raised many issues both constitutional and civil. Hickox was never diagnosed with Ebola, and according to her lawyer, she also never displayed any symptoms of the illness.
Siegel stated in an interview that he obviously agreed that the US government do and should have the right to use quarantine in certain situations, but that he believed this right had been abused and misused in the case of Hickox. The nurse simply stated that she was filing the lawsuit because she did not want any of her fellow health workers to suffer through what she did – especially as she and her colleagues were only in Ebola-zones in the first place in order to try and help treat patients in order to contain the epidemic that has lead to many deaths in West Africa.
Implications for Health Workers
New York City’s Mayor, Bil de Blasio, spoke out for the health workers who have served as first responders in West Africa, calling for people to respect what they are doing and to take note that Ebola is not an easy disease to contract, as it is not airborne, but spread through direct contact with infected persons’ body fluids.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also spoke out against the quarantines, saying he feared they would discourage health care workers from wanting to go to West Africa to help fight the disease and care for those in need. Fauci said he believed that active monitoring could achieve the same preventative measures as quarantine could, with much less stress and discomfort to health workers. Patients with Ebola do not become contagious until they start showing symptoms of the disease, so monitoring could serve well.
However, opinions are still mixed, with Illinois just having joined New York and New Jersey in installing quarantine measures as a measure to prevent the spread of Ebola, and many unsure of the best course to keep the epidemic contained and out of the USA.