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Divisions on Ebola Quarantine Procedures Emerge in US

by Michael Bowman October 26, 2014

Divisions have emerged between top U.S. health officials and two state governors who imposed rigorous quarantine protocols for American medical professionals returning from Ebola-stricken African nations.

Fears of possible Ebola contagion in one of America's largest and most-densely populated cities, New York, led Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Governor Chris Christie in neighboring New Jersey, to strengthen quarantine measures in their states.

Triggering concerns: Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who had worked in the West African nation of Guine and is now being treated for Ebola in a New York hospital while his fiancé remains under house quarantine.

'Dignity and humanity'

Also registering are complaints from a Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned from Sierra Leone and is now under mandatory isolation in New Jersey. Hickox ran a fever but has tested negative for Ebola. She wrote a U.S. newspaper that "the U.S. must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity."

"This is too serious to be dealing with voluntary quarantine. It makes no sense to me. We are significantly increasing the screening process for people who want to come into the New York-New Jersey area,' Cuomo said.

'We have the legal authority to do it. We are doing it,' Christie said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland, is critical of quarantine protocols in New York and New Jersey.

'One, we need to protect the American public. But, two, we need to make decisions based on scientific data,' Fauci said.

"As a scientist and a health care person, if I were asked, I would not have recommended that. The scientific data tells us that people who are without symptoms and with whom you do not come into contact with body fluids are not a threat,' he said.

Cured Ebola patient

Last week, President Barack Obama hugged cured Ebola patient Nina Pham. Pham, a nurse, had contracted the disease while caring for a Liberian man in a Dallas, Texas, hospital.

Obama said, "We have to work together at every level: federal, state, and local. And we have to keep leading the global response, because the best way to stop this disease, the best way to keep Americans safe, is to stop it at its source in West Africa."

But New Jersey Governor Christie is defending his decision to boost quarantine protocols.

"My first and foremost obligation is to protect the public health and safety of the people of New Jersey,' he said.

As U.S. fears over Ebola continue, African immigrants marched to the United Nations, decrying stigmatization they perceive from society at large.

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