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Monday, October 27, 2014

CDC: US Ebola medical workers should not be quarantined

Barbara Smith, RN,(L) Mount Sinai Health Sysytems and Bryan Christiansen MD, CDC Infection Control Team for the Ebola Response demonstrate the proper technique for donning and removing protective gear during an ebola educational session for healthcare workers.

Federal health officials have called for voluntary home quarantine for people at the highest risk for Ebola infection but said most medical workers returning from West Africa would require daily monitoring without isolation.

The announcement by Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ran counter to the mandatory quarantines being imposed on returning doctors and nurses by a handful of states including New York and New Jersey.

In addition, the US military said it was isolating troops returning from their mission to help West African countries curb Ebola even though they showed no sign of infection, while a nurse who treated patients in Sierra Leone was released to go to her home state after New Jersey had forced her into quarantine.

Frieden said high-risk people include healthcare workers who suffer a needle stick while caring for an Ebola patient or who tend to a patient without protective gear.

Under new CDC guidelines that spell out four risk categories, most healthcare workers returning from West Africa's Ebola hot zone would be considered to be at "some risk" for infection, while healthcare workers tending to Ebola patients at US facilities would be seen as "low but non-zero" risk.

Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and not transmitted by asymptomatic people. Ebola is not airborne.

The Pentagon move went well beyond previously established military protocols and came just as the White House pushed to roll back steps by US states to quarantine healthcare workers returning from the three countries at the center of the Ebola epidemic even if they were asymptomatic.

The US Army has already isolated about a dozen soldiers at part of a US base in Vicenza, Italy, including Major General Darryl Williams, who oversaw the initial response to the Ebola outbreak, the worst on record with nearly 5,000 dead.

Dozens more will be isolated in the coming days as they rotate out of West Africa, where the military has been building infrastructure to help health authorities treat Ebola victims, the Pentagon said.

"We are billeted in a separate area (on the base). There's no contact with the general population or with family. No one will be walking around Vicenza," Williams told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Nobody is symptomatic. No Army soldier came in contact with Ebola-stricken patients," Williams said, calling the move precautionary. "There's anxiety out there and we want to take care of our soldiers and their families."

With thousands already dead from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, concerns are high in the United States about stopping its spread. Some state officials, grappling with an unfamiliar public health threat, have called federal restrictions placed on people traveling from Ebola-affected countries insufficient to protect Americans and have imposed tougher measures like automatic quarantines on returning medical workers.

The case of nurse Kaci Hickox, put into quarantine on Friday under a New Jersey policy that exceeded precautions adopted by the US government, underscored the dilemma that federal and state officials are facing.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has defended his state's policy of automatic quarantine for medical workers returning from treating patients in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, told reporters he did not reverse the policy in allowing her to be discharged from the hospital and to return to Maine.

"We're very happy that she has been released from the hospital," said Christie, who Hickox had criticized for making comments about her health that she said were untrue while calling her quarantine unjust.

"She hadn't had any symptoms for 24 hours and she tested negative for Ebola so there's no reason to keep her," said Christie, a potential Republican Party 2016 US presidential candidate known for his combative style.

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Tags:  Airports  US  quarantine  Ebola  West Africa  





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