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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola fear cannot marginalize nurses, or physicians and health workers

Ebola fear has clearly grown out of proportion to the imminent danger of an epidemic. Currently, certain states are over reacting by requiring health care workers to be isolated upon their return from West African nations like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola is an out of control epidemic.  

It's plainly wrong to stigmatize health workers who are needed to provide education and quality care to people when they return home from their voluntary humanitarian missions to Africa. 

Nevertheless, health workers returning from these missions should take responsibility for protecting the public from unnecessary exposure by self monitoring their body temperatures.  Health workers must report any low grade fever and immediately isolate themselves, until tests clear the risk of an Ebola infection.  This is a reasonable response to the Ebola health workers.  Otherwise, by creating more isolation rules than are necessary, the fear about the virus will continue to grow out of proportion to the risk.  It's a fact that risk of death  by gun violence is greater than contracting Ebola from a health worker returning from West Africa.

New York (CNN) -- A nurse under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey after caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone has blasted more stringent state policies for dealing with health care workers returning from West Africa, saying the change could lead to medical professionals being treated like "criminals and prisoners."

In a first-person account in The Dallas Morning News, Kaci Hickox wrote that she was ordered placed in quarantine at a hospital, where she has now tested negative in two tests for Ebola. Still, hospital officials told her she must remain under quarantine for 21 days.

"This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me," she wrote.

A mandatory quarantine imposed by New York, New Jersey and Illinois on health care workers who just returned to the United States from treating Ebola patients in West Africa has prompted a debate on how to prevent the spread of the disease without discouraging medical aid workers from fighting the it.

The isolation policy was (in my opinion, too) abruptly implemented Friday by the governors of New York and New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie. The announcement came one day after a New York doctor who treated patients in Guinea became the first Ebola case diagnosed in New York City. (One physician?)

(Dear blog readers, this is a cynical response from a nurse blogger, but believe me, physicians can often do more harm to patients without being an Ebola risk. Don't panic because one humanitarian who returned from West Africa happened to have contracted the disease.)

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