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"It's not science-based" - Nurse who treated Ebola patients refuses to be quarantined

The state of Maine is considering a court order to detain Kaci Hickox.

Source: ABC News/YouTube

POLICE IN THE US plan to monitor the movements and interactions of a nurse who vowed to defy the state’s quarantine for health care workers who treat Ebola patients, but troopers cannot take her into custody without a judge’s permission.

State officials were seeking a court order to detain Kaci Hickox for the remainder of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola that ends on 10 November.

Hickox contends there’s no need for quarantine because she’s showing no symptoms, and she made her point by stepping outside her home briefly on Wednesday night to talk to reporters, even shaking one reporter’s hand. Police watched from across the street.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about how Ebola is transmitted, and I can understand why people are frightened. But their fear is not based on medical facts,” Norman Siegel, one of her lawyers, said on Wednesday as a showdown appeared imminent.

Hickox, who volunteered in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders, was the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine for people arriving at the Newark airport from three West African countries. Hickox spent the weekend in a tent in New Jersey before travelling to the home she shares with her boyfriend, a nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” she told reporters on Wednesday evening.

Generally, states have broad authority when it comes to such matters. But Maine health officials could have a tough time convincing a judge that Hickox poses a threat, said lawyer Jackie L. Caynon III, who specialises in health law in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“If somebody isn’t showing signs of the infection, then it’s kind of hard to say someone should be under mandatory quarantine,” he said.

Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, has killed thousands of people in Africa, but only four people have been diagnosed with it in the United States. People can’t be infected just by being near someone who’s sick, and people aren’t contagious unless they’re sick, health officials say.

Guidelines from the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend daily monitoring for health care workers like Hickox who have come into contact with Ebola patients. But some states like Maine are going above and beyond those guidelines.

Kaci Hickox The home in Maine where Kaci Hickox is staying. Source: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

The defence department is going even further. On Wednesday, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered military men and women helping fight Ebola to undergo 21-day quarantines that start upon their return — instead of their last exposure to an Ebola patient.

President Barack Obama warned that overly restrictive measures imposed upon returning health care workers could discourage them from volunteering in Africa.

Maine Governor Paul LePage, who cancelled campaign events to keep tabs on the situation, maintained that the state must be “vigilant” to protect others.

State law allows a judge to grant temporary custody of someone if health officials demonstrate “a clear and immediate public health threat.”

The state’s court filing was expected late on Wednesday or early on Thursday, officials said. If a judge grants the state request, then Hickox will appeal the decision on constitutional grounds, necessitating a hearing, Siegel said.

Siegel said the nurse hopes her fight against the quarantine will help bring an end to misinformation about how the Ebola virus is transmitted.

“She wants to have her voice in the debate about how America handles the Ebola crisis. She has an important voice and perspective,” he said.

Read: US says people returning from West Africa DON’T have to be quarantined because of the stigma >

Read: Australia is not allowing anyone from Ebola-hit nations into the country >

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Associated Press

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