Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday the mandatory quarantine for health workers returning to the United States from Ebola-stricken regions of West Africa is not “based on scientific data.”
“As a scientist and as a health person, if I were asked, I would not have recommended that,” Fauci said Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week.”
The policy, which was put into place by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, requires that any person returning to the US who has had contact with Ebola patients submit to a mandatory, 21-day quarantine. On Saturday, Illinois also imposed a mandatory quarantine for anyone passing through Chicago O’Hare Airport.
But the first quarantine case has so far been a disaster. Kaci Hickox, who was with the group Doctors Without Borders, said she was misdiagnosed with a fever upon her return to Newark Liberty International Airport. The group also said she was placed in a tent without heat and wearing uncomfortable paper scrubs.
Both Hickox, who told her story in a Dallas Morning News op-ed, and Fauci worried about what he termed the “unintended consequences” of the quarantine — that more workers would be discouraged from going to Africa to work to fight the virus.
“One, we need to protect the American public, but two, we need to make the decisions based on scientific data,” Fauci said.
“And we know that people who are without symptoms are not a threat to transmitting it. You don’t get Ebola unless you come into direct contact with body fluid. So there are things that we have got to be careful.”
Christie defended his decision and those of the other states on “Fox News Sunday.” He pointed to experience with an NBC News crew that broke a voluntary self-quaratine after one of its cameramen came down with the virus.
“I have great respect for Dr. Fauci, but what he’s counting on is a voluntary system with folks who may or may not comply. We had this situation in New Jersey, Chris, as you know with the NBC News crew that said they were going to self-quarantine and then two days later they were out picking up takeout food in Princeton and walking around the streets of Princeton,” Christie said.
“I mean the fact of the matter is that I don’t believe that 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’s job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens. And so, we’ve taken this action and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it.”
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