Quarantining health workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries ‘unfair and unwise’

The governors of states including New York and New Jersey who recently imposed 21-day quarantines on health workers returning to the U.S. from West Africa, where they may have cared for Ebola patients, were wrong to do so, argue the authors of an October 27, 2014 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Eric Rubin, Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at HSPH, was one of the co-authors of the editorial. Lead author was NEJM editor-in-chief Jeffrey Drazen, professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH.

Given what’s known about Ebola’s progression—that people unknowingly infected with the disease who experience fever, but not extreme symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, are not yet contagious—health workers who get a fever would be able to identify themselves before becoming a threat to their community, the authors said.

Stopping the Ebola epidemic will require controlling it at its source—and to do that, tens of thousands of volunteers are needed. The health workers who’ve been risking their lives to help stem the epidemic should be honored, not quarantined, the authors wrote. “If we add barriers making it harder for volunteers to return to their community, we are hurting ourselves,” they wrote.

Read the NEJM editorial: Ebola and Quarantine

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