First Ebola Worker in Quarantine for 21 Days Under New Policy Despite Testing Negative

A plane arrives at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) airport on October 11, 2014 in New York City. (PHOTO CREDIT: Spencer Platt—Getty Images)
A plane arrives at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) airport on October 11, 2014 in New York City. (PHOTO CREDIT: Spencer Platt—Getty Images)

A nurse who worked with Ebola patients in West Africa has tested negative for the virus after she was quarantined Friday upon arriving in Newark, New Jersey under a controversial new order by the governors of that state and New York.

Kaci Hickox had no symptoms when she landed, but developed a fever while quarantined at Newark International Airport, reports the New York Times. She will undergo additional tests to confirm that she is in fact cleared of Ebola.

Under a new policy announced late Friday afternoon by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, anyone who had direct contact with Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and enters the country through Newark Liberty and Kennedy International Airport must be quarantined for 21 days.

The new measures go beyond federal guidelines and what infectious disease experts recommend. They were formulated without consulting New York’s health department or New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.

“We are no longer relying on [Centers of Disease Control and Prevention] standards,” said Gov. Christie.

Health experts say that the travel bans on flights from West Africa proposed by several Republicans in Congress, as well as the new mandatory quarantines in New York and New Jersey, are likely to discourage badly needed healthcare workers from traveling to the area to help contain Ebola.

“There is a notable lack of clarity about the new guidelines announced yesterday by the state authorities in New York and New Jersey,” Sophie Delaunay, executive director of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), for whom Hickox had been working, in a statement following Hickox’s quarantine. “we are attempting to clarify the details of the protocols with each state’s departments of health to gain a full understanding of their requirements and implications.”

Dr. Rick Sacra, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown back to the United States, told the Times the mandatory quarantines “will effectively double the burden on those people, on the loss of productive time.”

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Sam Frizell

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