Federal health officials attempted on Monday to bring some order to a chaotic response to the latest Ebola diagnosis in the United States, after the United Nations criticised earlier restrictions placed on healthcare workers returning from west Africa.
Medics flying into the US after treating Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone should be more closely monitored by local authorities for 21 days, according to new national guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However only those deemed “high risk” – those who did not wearing proper protective clothing, or were exposed to the virus via a needle or other injury – should automatically require quarantines in their homes, Tom Frieden, the CDC director, told a conference call.
The new advisory should “increase the level of protection of the health and safety of Americans” while “protecting those who are doing the heroic work of protecting us from Ebola as they fight it on the shores of Africa as well,” said Frieden.
His latest guidelines followed a backlash to mandatory quarantines announced by New York and New Jersey last Friday for all healthcare workers who came into contact with infected people in west Africa, after a doctor, Craig Spencer, was diagnosed with Ebola in New York City last week.
The quarantine rules have since been loosened by governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, in a statement released by the UN, said that returning medics “should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science” and “those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatised”.
His criticism came shortly after New Jersey authorities announced that Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was confined to a quarantine tent with a portable toilet and no shower despite showing no symptoms after returning to the US from treating patients in Sierra Leone, would be released and allowed to return to her home to Maine.
The White House appeared to accept on Monday that a patchwork system of Ebola restrictions was inevitable given that public health policies were a matter for individual states. “We have a federal system in this country in which states are given significant authority for governing their constituents,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a briefing. “That is certainly true when it comes to public safety and public health.”
Meanwhile about a dozen US troops, who had been in Liberia as part of an operation to help tackle the Ebola outbreak, were being quarantined in Italy after returning to base in Vicenza and reportedly met by police in hazmat suits.
Under the CDC’s latest “active monitoring” guideline, all returning healthcare workers are deemed to be at “some risk” of Ebola, and s….READ MORE…