Kaci Hickox, an American nurse, just returned from Sierra Leone where she was on assignment with Doctors Without Borders, treating Ebola patients. Upon her return to the United States she went through screening anyone entering the country undergoes and tested negative for the virus. But rather than being free to return home and go about her life, she was placed in mandatory quarantine in New Jersey.
In an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News, Hickox described process she went through, writing, “I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?”
After four hours of waiting in the airport, a forehead scanner registered her temperature at 101, though she said he face was flush from frustration and insisted “an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.”
She was taken to a hospital, where, a few hours later, her temperature was taken again, this time orally. It was normal. But, she writes, “the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”
In spite of the normal temperature, Kaci will be in quarantine for 21 days. This stands in stark contrast to how President Barack Obama said visitors from Ebola affected countries, either on business or vacation, will be treated under the administration’s new guidelines.
The president said, “Starting this week, these travelers will be required to report their temperatures and any symptoms on a daily basis—for 21 days until we’re confident they don’t have Ebola.”
Kaci’s main concern for her treatment is it will influence and dissuade other health care professionals from traveling to West Africa to give much needed medical care at ground zero for the outbreak.
She concludes her op-ed with, “The epidemic continues to ravage West Africa. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that as many as 15,000 people have died from Ebola. We need more health care workers to help fight the epidemic in West Africa. The U.S. must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity.”