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Bioethicist: Hotels, Not Quarantines, for Ebola Heroes

 / Updated 
Members of the Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on Oct. 8 in New York City.
Members of the Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on Oct. 8 in New York City. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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Why don't we create a hotel for the heroes in the fight against Ebola? Rather than talk of quarantine and the stigma of isolation lets give every doctor or nurse who comes back from West Africa a paid three-week vacation complete with good food, wine and free Wi-Fi.

The governors of New York and New Jersey announced a mandatory 21-day quarantine on Friday for anyone who’s been in contact with an Ebola patient in West Africa. That means an extra three weeks of lost time for volunteers with Doctors Without Borders, Samaritan’s Purse, Last Mile Health and other groups studying Ebola, treating patients and helping countries cope with the out-of-control epidemic.

Public health experts all caution that Ebola threatens the entire world so long as it’s spreading in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

There are two dangers circulating in the USA right now. One is Ebola. It is very hard to catch, has killed exactly one person in America and is far less risky to the average American than the flu, driving a car or eating undercooked hamburger.

The other is fear of Ebola. That is very dangerous. It is leading to complaints about the brave doctor who just got back from Guinea to New York City and, showing no symptoms, went bowling, rode the subways and went out to eat.

He did nothing dangerous. Unless you had sex with him at the bowling alley or shared his toothbrush on the subway you are not going to get Ebola from him. And he reported himself to health authorities as soon as he showed a slight fever, just as he had been taught.

But that behavior did nothing to stop the fear that associates with Ebola. And the fear is understandable since every TV show has images within minutes of a giant Ebola virus that looks like a two-foot tapeworm and people in moonsuits looking out at us like Darth Vader’s advance patrol.

So how to combat fear? Honor these heroes by giving them paid R &R, with their partner if they so choose, for 21 days. Give them a vacation in the guise of quarantine. Give them a reason to want to go back to fight Ebola. Give other doctors and nurses a reason to emulate them. Build or buy a nice hotel for these heroes.

They get honored. The public is not afraid. Ebola loses. Win win win.

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