Nurse Traveling from Sierra Leone Blasts Treatment She Received at Airport

Masked customs officers look on from a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 4, 2014. (Photo: Viorel Florescu, AP)
Masked customs officers look on from a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 4, 2014.
(Photo: Viorel Florescu, AP)

A nurse who has tested negative for Ebola is criticizing the way she was treated at Newark Liberty International Airport and the “frenzy of disorganization” she encountered there.

Kaci Hickox returned to the United States on Friday after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone through Doctors Without Borders. When she shared where she had been with airport officials, Hickox said she was held in a quarantine office for more than six hours and given no explanations. She is now being held in isolation at University Hospital in Newark, and tested negative for the virus on Saturday, according to health officials.

“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,” Hickox writes in a first-person story for The Dallas Morning News. “I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced mandatory quarantines of up to 21 days for medical personnel and any others who returned to the United States after direct contact with Ebola-infected individuals in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea. The three countries in West Africa have been hardest-hit by the outbreak of Ebola.

Hickox arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport at 1 p.m. after what she describes as a “grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone.”

“I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a ‘hello,'” Hickox writes. “I told him that I traveled from Sierra Leone and he replied, a little less enthusiastically: ‘No problem. They are probably going to ask you a few questions.'”

However, what followed was hours of interrogation, Hickox says. She was put in an office and told to sit down as several people — including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — questioned her about her time in Sierra Leone.

“Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks and a disposable face shield,” Hickox writes. “One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.”

Hickox said her temperature was taken and that it came back as 98 degrees. Though no one would tell her what was going on, she called her family to tell them she was OK. She also managed to get a granola bar and some water from airport officials. But, she was still hungry and tired and eventually her face became flushed.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: USA Today – Yamiche Alcindor

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