A nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and was quarantined upon her arrival at a New Jersey airport Friday — and who later tested negative for the disease — is criticizing how she was treated, describing a chaotic scene where she was made to feel like a criminal.
In a first-person account in the Dallas Morning News, nurse Kaci Hickox said of her three-hour wait at Newark Liberty International Airport: “No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.” An hour later, with little to eat or drink in the meantime, a forehead-scanning thermometer found her temperature to be 101 degrees but staffers refused to use an oral thermometer, which Hickox said would be more accurate.
"This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me. I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine," she said.
She was taken by police escort to an isolation tent outside Newark’s University Hospital, where an oral thermometer found a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees, but a forehead scanner again read 101 degrees — a bad reading she blamed on being flushed from her ordeal. A blood test later tested negative for the virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
“I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?" Hickox asked.
Despite the negative test, Hickox will remain in a mandatory 21-day quarantine as part of new procedures put in place by the governors of New York and New Jersey after a doctor in New York City who also treated Ebola patients tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
Like the New York City patient, Hickox worked overseas with Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders. The organization on Saturday called the new guidelines vague, and said Hickox is being kept in an unheated tent and forced to wear paper scrubs. “Doctors Without Borders is very concerned about the conditions and uncertainty she is facing,” the group said.
— Phil Helsel