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Ebola Nurse Defies Quarantine and Leaves Maine Home

Maine EbolaKaci Hickox, the nurse who returned from Sierra Leone with a low grade fever and was quarantined first by New Jersey and currently Maine, this morning defied the 21 day quarantine mandate and left her home on a bicycle.

Hickox claims that her civil rights are being violated by Maine and plans to challenge the quarantine in court.

“I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health and feeling strong and have been this entire time completely symptom-free,” Hickox said on NBC’s Today.

When Hickox returned to the U.S., she exhibited a slight fever and was quarantined in New Jersey, which, along with several other states, has instituted a strict 21-day quarantine policy for any person returning from Ebola-stricken nations showing symptoms of illness.

“I understand that she didn’t want to be there, she made that very clear from the beginning,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the time of the initial quarantine. “But my obligation is to all of the people of New Jersey, and we’re just going to continue to do that.”

Hickox objected, threatened to sue the state, and was permitted to leave New Jersey after the initial fever subsided and no other symptoms emerged.

Maine, however, planned to hold Hickox to the remainder of the initial 21 day quarantine and has asked for a court order to enforce the isolation.

“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,” said Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Ebola is considered contagious only when symptoms emerge.  The question is whether it is best to quarantine based on risk prior to becoming symptomatic or wait for illness, which may endanger other people.

“I understand how fear spreads,” Hickox told the New York Times. “But if I’m a nurse and I have a patient in the hospital, it’s our responsibility as medical professionals to advocate for our patients. Now, it’s the medical professionals who are being stigmatized. Even if there is popular public opinion, we still have to advocate for what’s right.”

Another concern is the longer term effect of quarantine policies on humanitarian missions.

“We are hopeful that the selfless health workers who are brave and caring enough to care for Ebola patients in a foreign country will be willing to take reasonable steps to protect the residents of their own country,” said Mary Mayhew, Maine’s Health and Human Services commissioner. “However, we will pursue legal authority, if necessary, to ensure risk is minimized for all Mainers.”

(Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr)

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