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The nurse forcibly quarantined in New Jersey after she came home from treating Ebola patients in West Africa was released from the hospital Monday. Kaci Hickox has been held against her will in a tent inside a wing of a New Jersey medical center since she was taken off a flight, flushed and distraught, Friday.
Hickox has hired a lawyer and spoken out publicly against her quarantine.
“Since testing negative for Ebola on early Saturday morning, the patient being monitored in isolation at University Hospital in Newark has thankfully been symptom free for the last 24 hours,” New Jersey health department officials said in a statement. “As a result, and after being evaluated in coordination with the CDC and the treating clinicians at University Hospital, the patient is being discharged.”
The case quickly escalated over the weekend, with Hickox protesting from her confinement and scientists including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying there was no medical basis to hold her. The White House even weighed in, pressing New York and New Jersey to reverse their decisions to quarantine all returning medical workers who have treated Ebola patients.
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Hickox will be allowed to take private transport home to Maine. “Since the patient had direct exposure to individuals suffering from the Ebola Virus in one of the three West African nations, she is subject to a mandatory New Jersey quarantine order," the statement read.
“Health officials in Maine have been notified of her arrangements and will make a determination under their own laws on her treatment when she arrives.”
State and federal officials have been under enormous pressure from the public to do something to protect people from Ebola ever since Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with the virus in Dallas and died earlier this month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised states to monitor anyone returning from the three Ebola-hit West African nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — for the 21 day maximum period, but hadn't advised quarantine. New York and New Jersey both said they'd go farther and quarantine anyone traveling from those countries who had been in contact with an Ebola patient. That would of course include doctors, nurses and technicians who volunteer to go fight the epidemic.
Virginia and Maryland are the latest states to release rules on returning travelers. Virginia health officials said Monday they'd enforce a 21-day monitoring period, but said anyone who had unprotected contact with a known Ebola patient would have to agree to stay at home for that period and said returning health care workers must agree to stay off public transport.
Maryland's new policy is similar. "Individuals with a known exposure to Ebola virus, such as through a splash of body fluid on exposed skin or a needle-stick injury will remain at home for the 21-day period and will be closely monitored," Maryland governor Martin O'Malley said in a blog post.
"Health care workers who were wearing personal protective equipment during care for patients with Ebola virus are at 'some risk.' They will refrain from attending mass gatherings and using public transportation, will refrain from traveling long distances without approval from health department officials, and will also be closely monitored by state and local health officials."
U.S. military troops leaving Africa will be quarantined, the Department of Defense says. Army Major General Darryl Williams and some staff have returned to their home base of Vicenza, Italy, after turning over command of troops in Liberia to Army Major General Gary Volesky and his 101st Airborne Division on Saturday.
Experts stress that people can only transmit Ebola if they are actively ill and showing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. People can only catch Ebola if they ingest or are in other close contact with bodily fluids from such a patient.