Does Quarantine of Health Workers Returning From West Africa Violate Human Rights?

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America – Medical workers returning from treating patients in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are being quarantined by several U.S. states even if they show no sign of Ebola symptoms. The U.S. army has implemented a similar policy, isolating nearly a dozen soldiers at part of a U.S. base in Vicenza, Italy.

Nurse Kaci Hickox returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa and was immediately quarantined in the state of New Jersey (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

The federal government has said that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will release guidelines for executing protocols for healthcare workers returning to the U.S. from treating patients in West Africa. However, state officials, whom are unfamiliar with such a health threat, have called federal restrictions placed on people traveling from parts of West Africa insufficient, and have thus resorted to imposing tougher measures like automatic quarantines on medical workers.

New York, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey instituted mandatory quarantines for anyone exposed to people infected with Ebola. U.N. Secretary-General, Bank Ki-moon, has publicly criticized the quarantines, saying through his spokesman that they create difficulties for medical workers risking their lives, and these workers “should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science.”

Those who have been subjected to the mandatory quarantine procedure have called the constitutionality of the state implemented quarantines to attention. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has defended his state’s policy of automatic quarantine. However, nurse, Kaci Hickox, who was placed into quarantine on Friday claimed that she felt that her “basic human rights are being violated,” by being kept in isolation at University Hospital in Newark, despite not showing any symptoms of the Ebola virus. She is the first person quarantined under the New Jersey policy.

The lawyer for the nurse said that he is planned to file a federal suit if his client was not released. Hickox stated that she was being held in a tent structure, “with a port-a-potty like structure and no shower and no connection to the outside world….” She has also claimed that she had not been allowed to see her lawyer or anyone else.

The New Jersey Governor has since stated that he will allow Hickox to finish the 21-day quarantine at home. He rationalized this statement by stating, “she hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours and she tested negative for Ebola so there’s no reason to keep her.”

 

For more information, please see the following:

ABC NEWS – Nurse in Ebola Quarantine to Sue For Freedom; Feds Push Back on State Rules – 26 Oct 2014.

CNN – Nurse Describes Ebola Quarantine Ordeal: ‘ I Was In Shock. Now I’m Angry’ – 27 Oct. 2014

REUTERS – U.S. CDC Says Returning Ebola Medical Workers Should Not Be Quarantined – 27 Oct. 2014.

USA TODAY – Nurse Quarantines in N.J. To Be Released – 27 Oct. 2014.

 

Author: Lyndsey Kelly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *