Quarantined Nurse: NJ Treated Me Like a 'Criminal'

Kaci Hickox put through wringer, despite testing negative for Ebola
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2014 7:03 AM CDT
Masked customs officers look on during a screening area for passengers from United flight 998 from Brussels at Newark airport in New Jersey, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014.   (AP Photo/Northjersey.com, Viorel Florescu)
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(Newser) – Kaci Hickox had "spent a month watching children die, alone," in Sierra Leone, where the 33-year-old nurse was working with Ebola patients with Doctors Without Borders. On Friday, she flew into New Jersey's Newark airport—and straight into a bureaucratic quagmire that underscores the nation's struggle to respond to and contain the outbreak of the virus. Writing for the Dallas Morning News, Hickox describes six hours of questioning and cooling her heels at Newark, until a forehead scanner recorded her temp at 101 degrees—reversing an earlier normal reading "because I was flushed and upset," writes Hickox. She was then sent to the hospital. "Eight police cars escorted me," she writes. "Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong."

Doctors at Newark's University Hospital used a more accurate oral thermometer and recorded Hickox's temperature at 98.6 degrees; a blood test for Ebola came back negative. Yet she sits in quarantine in an unheated tent in New Jersey, courtesy of that state's mandatory quarantine policy—which is attracting no small amount of criticism, reports the AP. "Coercive measures like mandatory quarantine of people exhibiting no symptoms of Ebola and when not medically necessary raise serious constitutional concerns about the state abusing its powers," says the director of New Jersey's ACLU. A rep for DWB is urging "fair and reasonable treatment" of its workers, and says it's trying to "clarify the details of the protocols with each state's departments of health." Meanwhile, Hickox notes the vast need for "more health care workers to help fight the epidemic in West Africa." In turn, she writes, "the US must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity." (Read more Ebola stories.)

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