Oops…Still-Quarantined Nurse In New Jersey Does Not Have Ebola

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Doctors Without Borders nurse who tested negative for Ebola after being put under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey lashed out Saturday at the move to force her detainment.

Kaci Hickox, a 33-year-old nurse from Maine who had been working with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, was detained Friday at Newark Liberty International Airport under stepped-up protocols ordered by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo .

In an essay published by The Dallas Morning News on Saturday, Ms. Hickox wrote that being quarantined at University Hospital in Newark “is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me.”

Ms. Hickox said a forehead scan taken by an official at the airport initially said her temperature was 98 degrees. But hours later, after she said she became upset about being held without explanation, a forehead scan found her temperature to be 101 degrees.

A worker at the airport “barked questions at me as if I was a criminal,” she wrote.

At the hospital, her temperature was recorded at 98.6 degrees on an oral thermometer, and she said a doctor told her, “There’s no way you have a fever. Your face is just flushed.” After that, she said, her blood was taken and came back negative for Ebola after a test.

“I am scared about how health-care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa,” Ms. Hickox wrote. “I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.”

Ms. Hickox’s mother, Karen Hickox, said in an interview that her daughter was being held in an “isolation tent” that has an air system and a portable toilet, but no shower. She said her daughter has been given hospital food by attendants dressed in full protective suits—the uniforms Ms. Hickox wore to treat sick patients on a five-week trip to Sierra Leone.

“There is no TV, no books, no magazines, nothing,” said Karen Hickox, who lives in Rio Vista, Texas, a city roughly 40 miles south of Fort Worth. Her daughter called on Saturday morning in tears.

“That’s not her normal demeanor,” her mother said. “If you knew her, she’s a very positive, everything-is-going-to-be-OK person.”

Doctors Without Borders said the tent wasn’t heated and that Ms. Hickox was forced to wear uncomfortable paper scrubs.

The organization said she hasn’t been informed about what comes next and has been issued an order of quarantine that doesn’t indicate how long she will remain in isolation.

The group also said in a statement, “While measures to protect public health are of paramount importance, they must be balanced against the rights of health workers returning from fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to fair and reasonable treatment and the full disclosure of information to them, along with information about intended courses of action from local and state health authorities.”

New Jersey Governor Christie said Saturday that his heart goes out to Ms. Hickox. He said it was a “difficult situation” and that steps were taken to make her comfortable.

“My first and foremost obligation is to protect the public health and safety of the people of New Jersey,” Mr. Christie said while campaigning in a governor race in Sioux City, Iowa.

New Jersey Governor Christie also said: “But you know I feel for her,” and “I hope she recovers quickly and we’re going to do everything we can in New Jersey and in our public health system to make sure that she does.”

Of course, she doesn’t seem to actually have Ebola.

Ms. Hickox was scheduled to remain under 21-day quarantine and may undergo further testing, officials said.

The quarantine was part of more stringent screening guidelines instituted in New Jersey and New York after another Doctors Without Borders worker, Craig Spencer, tested positive for the virus. Dr. Spencer was in stable condition in Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.

The mandatory quarantines apply to any medical workers who had performed services to individuals infected with the Ebola virus, officials said.

Individuals who had traveled to Ebola-affected regions of West Africa and returned through New York or New Jersey would be actively monitored by public-health officials even if they didn’t have direct contact with an infected person.

CDC guidelines had called for humanitarian aid workers to monitor their own temperature for 21 days after returning from West Africa.

The federal guidelines don’t call for any movement restrictions as long as they exhibit no symptoms of the disease.

Ms. Hickox’s mother said her daughter took previous missions with Doctors Without Borders.  “She loves the organization. She loves what they do,” her mother said.

In other news, it was announced that the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, is traveling to Guinea on Sunday. She will also visit Liberia and Sierra Leone, making the trip despite calls by some US lawmakers for a travel ban on the three West African countries worst-affected by Ebola.

Ms Power, a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, left Washington on Saturday.

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