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Maine Nurse Kaci Hickox Vows to Fight Ebola Quarantine Order

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who returned from treating Ebola patients in Africa, said she will fight Maine officials seeking a mandatory quarantine order.
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Kaci Hickox, the nurse who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, vowed to fight Maine officials who are seeking a court order to force her to self-quarantine at home.

Hickox, who is holed up in a house in the town of Fort Kent, gave the state until Thursday to let her move freely and threatened to take the matter to court herself. But Maine Health Commissioner Mary Mayhew said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that "when it is made clear by an individual in this risk category that they do not intend to voluntarily stay at home for the remaining 21 days, we will immediate see a court order."

Mayhew didn't use Hickox's name because of privacy regulations, but Hickox is the only person in the state known to have had direct exposure to Ebola patients. Asked specifically about Hickox's case, Mayhew replied, "We will make it mandatory."

Hickox emerged from her home Wednesday to tell reporters that she and her attorneys had been in negotiations all day with state officials but that the impasse remained.

"They will not allow me to leave my house and have any interaction with the public, even though I am completely healthy and symptom-free," Hickox said as her boyfriend stood beside her — and as a state trooper who has her under surveillance looked on.

If the state does go to court to force her to stay isolated until Nov. 10, "then I will challenge those legal actions," she said. "I'm not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it's not science-based."

Earlier Wednesday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he was drawing up papers to ask a judge to help him enforce the quarantine.

In an interview on TODAY, she vowed not to be "bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public." She said she has been symptom-free since she landed at Newark, New Jersey, on Friday.

Hickox was kept in an isolation tent for three days after she returned to the U.S. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie let her go on Monday, and she was driven to Maine, which imposed its own quarantine.

"My concern is the same concerns we've always had, the concern about 21-day incubation period, and I just want to protect Maine from that," he said. "If the court says not to worry, hey, don't worry."

A handful of states have gone further than federal health officials and ordered quarantines for health workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in Africa, even when they show no symptoms and therefore would not be contagious anyway.

World health organizations and U.S. infectious-disease experts have called the additional state measures unnecessary and say they could make the outbreak worse in Africa by discouraging Americans from volunteering to go there and help.

Mayhew said that "ideally," the request for a court order would be filed Wednesday. In that case, a hearing would likely fall Monday, Hickox's lawyer, Norman Siegel, told NBC News — the day before voters decide whether to elect LePage to a second term.

"The ball is in their court," he said. "They have to decide what they're going to do."

Doctors Without Borders, the international aid group that has been on the front lines of the fight against Ebola, sided with Hickox, saying in a statement that her quarantine "is not based upon established medical science."

"Quarantine will only undermine efforts to curb the epidemic at its source in West Africa," said the group, which said Hickox has worked with it in numerous countries.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the state trooper said Kaci Hickox would be arrested if she left the home.



— M. Alex Johnson, Kate Snow, Nick Bogert and Erin McClam