Ebola Nurse Kaci Hickox Needs To Lay Off The Smug And Deal With Her Quarantine
Most of the fear mongering and nonsense about Ebola spewed on the internet is utterly ridiculous and uncalled for. However, we obviously have to take certain precautions to prevent anyone from catching this deadly disease within our own borders. This includes reasonable measures taken to keep healthcare workers who have treated Ebola patients from catching the illness or transmitting it to others. After all, the only people in America to contract it have been healthcare workers who treated Ebola patients.
However, these healthcare workers do not help their own case at all in regard to their treatment when they return to the states by ignoring quarantine recommendations and complaining about it. Nurse Kaci Hickox needs to lay off the smug and accept her quarantine, considering the fact that she returned home from treating patients in an Ebola hot zone in Africa and presented with a fever at the Newark airport. Officials had every right in the world to impose a quarantine for her, of all people.
Video of Hickox’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show enraged me. Her cavalier dismissal of the public’s valid concerns and her outright refusal to acknowledge the fact that her quarantine is important to protect others is infuriating. She cites a lack of organization at the Newark airport as a reason for fighting her isolation but I don’t really see what that has to do with anything. Under questioning from Lauer, she admits that she did register a fever at the airport. What the hell else were health officials supposed to do? See below for the interview- my description can’t do it justice:
Her insistence that a negative test means she should not be quarantined is kind of appalling. Although the New England Journal of Medicine published an article in support of healthcare workers like Hickox not having to quarantine themselves unless they show symptoms, they do state that Ebola will not show up in the blood right away and a negative test is by no means a guarantee that a patient will not later test positive:
Furthermore, we now know that fever precedes the contagious stage, allowing workers who are unknowingly infected to identify themselves before they become a threat to their community. This understanding is based on more than clinical observation: the sensitive blood polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) test for Ebola is often negative on the day when fever or other symptoms begin and only becomes reliably positive 2 to 3 days after symptom onset.
If we can trust healthcare workers like Hickox to monitor and self-identify when they start in with symptoms, then it would be acceptable not to quarantine them and to simply have them undergo 21 days of monitoring by the CDC and local healthcare officials. But what about the case of Craig Spencer, the doctor who traveled to Africa to treat Ebola patients and returned to the states? He ended up positive for the disease a few days after he had gone on the subway and to a bowling alley. It has recently emerged that he lied to authorities and said he was self-quarantining and was only discovered when detectives found activity on his Metro card suggesting otherwise. Considering this fact, I think it more than reasonable that the American public may not be willing to take a healthcare worker’s word for it that they will exercise reasonable precautions after returning from an Ebola hot zone.
New reports say that after her announcement on the Today show of planning to ignore the quarantine, Maine state police showed up at her house to force her to stay at home:
“We hoped that the healthcare worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols,” Governor LePage said in a public statement. “We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community. We are exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being of the healthcare worker, anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine. While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”
The focus should be squarely on how to stop Ebola, not on the “civil rights” of one nurse who knew full well the risk she was putting herself at when traveling to Africa to treat Ebola patients. Let me be clear- I am not talking about radical quarantine measures for random citizens who maybe sat on the same train as someone who just got back from Sierra Leone. I am only talking about healthcare workers who have come into contact with Ebola patients. So far, we have had one nurse fly in a plane after treating an Ebola patient, another go on a cruise ship, a doctor head over to the bowling alley and now, Hickox refusing to stay quarantined for another few weeks. I do not understand this behavior at all.
I can only speak for myself when I say that if I were one of them, I would be MORE than willing to do whatever it took to ease the public’s fear and to ensure there was no possible way I could make anyone else sick in case it turned out that I was. I am not willing to put my trust in healthcare workers to police themselves when they are slowly showing (Dr. Spencer and Hickox) that they are not willing to do what any responsible person would do in their position. Deal with your 21 days and move on. I’m sure it sucks but it is hardly the worst thing in the world.