Via The New York Times, an informative article: New Ebola Quarantine Protocol Seen as Barrier to Volunteers. Excerpt:
On Friday, in a surprising move, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey imposed a mandatory quarantine on individuals arriving at two area airports who have had direct contact with those infected with Ebola, including health workers.
Among medical professionals who have been fighting Ebola in West Africa, the restrictions only intensified the debate. While a few of those interviewed said an overabundance of caution was welcome, the vast majority said that restrictions like those adopted by New York and New Jersey could cripple volunteers’ efforts at the front lines of the epidemic.
Although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the baseline for recommended standards on Ebola, state and local officials have the prerogative to tighten the regimen as they see fit.
Dr. Rick Sacra, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown back to the United States to be treated in September, said he believed that the new rules in New Jersey and New York would reduce the number of people willing to volunteer their time to treat Ebola patients.
He said many doctors and nurses who volunteered would spend about three weeks in Africa and then return to their regular jobs. The requirement that they be quarantined at home upon their return “will effectively double the burden on those people, on the loss of productive time,” Dr. Sacra said.
“They are the authorities,” he added. “They have their rationale. They sometimes can’t base their decisions only on the science.”
Part of the issue, several doctors said in interviews on Friday, is that there is no standard protocol for health care workers returning from Ebola-affected countries. Some doctors returned to seeing patients, while others were told to stay away from their hospitals in large metropolitan areas for 21 days, which is believed to be the maximum incubation period for the virus.
The group Doctors Without Borders requires all health care workers returning from affected countries to follow a series of instructions, in hopes of identifying the illness as soon as it develops: Returning staff members must take their temperatures twice a day; be on the lookout for symptoms of Ebola; stay within four hours of a hospital with the ability to isolate patients with the disease; and finish their course of preventive malaria treatment, because symptoms of malaria can mimic Ebola’s.
But beyond that, returning workers are permitted to resume their normal activities, since a person without symptoms of the disease cannot transmit it. “Self-quarantine is neither warranted nor recommended when a person is not displaying Ebola-like symptoms,” the organization said in a statement on Thursday.
Doctors Without Borders does ask workers not to return to work for 21 days, however, both because they need to rest and because of the risk of contracting an illness that could generate symptoms easily mistaken for Ebola. In a statement on Friday, the group said it was still reviewing the New York and New Jersey guidelines.