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NEW YORK — The gulf between politicians and scientists over Ebola widened on Sunday as the top U.S. infectious-disease expert warned that the mandatory, 21-day quarantining of medical workers returning from West Africa imposed by several states is unnecessary and could discourage volunteers from going to the hot zone.

“The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Meanwhile, Kaci Hickox, the first nurse forcibly quarantined in New Jersey under the state’s new policy, said in a telephone interview with CNN that her isolation at a hospital was “inhumane,” adding: “We have to be very careful about letting politicians make health decisions.”

The governors of New York and New Jersey announced a mandatory quarantine program on Friday for medical workers and other airline passengers who have had contact with Ebola victims in disease-ravaged West Africa, and Illinois soon followed suit. Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered twice-daily monitoring for 21 days of anyone returning from Ebola-stricken areas. Twenty-one days is the incubation period for Ebola.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Sunday defended quarantining as necessary to protect the public and predicted it “will become a national policy sooner rather than later.”

“I don’t believe when you’re dealing with something as serious as this that we can count on a voluntary system. This is government’s job. If anything else, the government job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens,” said Christie, who is expected to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. “And so, we’ve taken this action, and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it.”

Fauci made the rounds on five major morning talk shows to argue that policy should be guided by science — and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. And even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

Fauci said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa — an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made.

“If we don’t have our people volunteering to go over there, then you’re going to have other countries that are not going to do it and then the epidemic will continue to roar,” he said.

The World Health Organization said more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the outbreak that came to light last March, and nearly half of them have died, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Christie, traveling the country as head of the Republican Governors Association, said he was not worried that quarantining would discourage volunteers from going to West Africa.

Other than saying last week that those under quarantine could be confined to their homes or medical facilities, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have given no details on how the measure would be enforced and what would happen to those who refused to cooperate.

But Cuomo, who is up for re-election next week, said the order is legally enforceable, and expressed confidence that medical professionals would go along.

Earlier this month, four members of a family in Texas that Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan stayed with before he died were confined to their home under armed guard after failing to comply with a request not to leave their apartment. Also, 75 Dallas hospital workers were asked to sign legally binding documents in which they agreed not go to public places or use mass transit.

The New York-area quarantine measures were announced after Dr. Craig Spencer returned to New York City from treating Ebola victims in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center last Thursday to be treated for Ebola. In the week after his return, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant.

Hospital officials did not immediately update Spencer’s condition Sunday but said a day earlier that he was experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms and “entering the next phase of his illness.”

Hickox, the quarantined nurse, said she had no symptoms at all and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation.

“It’s just a slippery slope, not a sound public health decision,” she said of the quarantine policy. “I want to be treated with compassion and humanity, and don’t feel I’ve been treated that way.”

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who arrived in Guinea on Sunday, criticized the new quarantine policies introduced states back home.

Before leaving for West Africa, she told NBC News that the new quarantine policies are “haphazard” and said returning U.S. health care workers should be “treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done.”

Power, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during the outbreak, is trying to highlight the need for increased international support to combat Ebola and swing the spotlight back to a region where nearly 5,000 people have died from Ebola and both supplies and workers are badly needed.

Fauci appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” ABC’s “This Week, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’ “Face the Nation” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” Christie was interviewed on Fox and Power spoke to NBC.

FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press___

Associated Press writers Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, New Jersey, and Thomas Strong in Washington and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.

The post Experts Argue Against Quarantine appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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