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The Rise of Ebola in the U.S. and Government Response

Posted on November 7th, 2014 by Admin

By Jennifer Hector, Intern
The Cochran Firm

It was not until September 2014 that mainstream America started reporting on the Ebola pandemic that has affected thousands of West Africans. On September 30th, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian National, was diagnosed with Ebola. He was the first person to test positive for the deadly disease on U.S. soil, and shortly after his passing, two nurses that treated him contracted the disease. The nurses have both been treated and released from the hospital. Even though Duncan and the two nurses were not the first persons in America to be infected with Ebola, they were the first ones to be diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. Since Duncan’s diagnosis, there have been a total of eight Americans that have been identified and treated for the virus.

Although Ebola is spread by human-to-human contact and the risk to Americans contracting the disease is very low, per the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), there has been growing concern among state and federal governments regarding the best method to prevent any further outbreaks. Governors of New York and New Jersey were the first to issue a mandatory at-home quarantine in order to prevent any further breakout. The mandate requires that anyone who enters the state from one of the three countries with an Ebola outbreak will have to pass through a series of screenings. If a traveler shows symptoms or is identified as having Ebola, they will be escorted to a designated hospital and immediately placed in isolation for up to 21 days.

If a traveler does not exhibit symptoms of Ebola but has been in contact with someone who has, they are mandated to a 21-day at-home quarantine. During the at-home quarantine, the traveler will be monitored with surprise visits by health officials who will check for symptoms and monitor the traveler’s temperature. Since the quarantine mandate announced by NY and NJ, several other states have adopted similar policies including Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, and California citing that since the CDC’s polices were in flux, there was a need to make a decision on how to prevent the spread of this disease.

While it was the intent of the governors to protect the public, the mandated quarantine policy has been met with overwhelming criticism from both the White House and the United Nations (“UN”). Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has criticized the policy for not being rooted in science and that the general public is only at risk if the individual is symptomatic and there is an exchange of bodily fluids; if there is no exchange of bodily fluids with a person who is symptomatic or infected with the disease, they will not contract Ebola. The policy has also been criticized for hindering efforts to support medical professionals that have or will travel abroad to assist with the crisis in Africa. Dr. Fauci advocates that “the best way to protect America is to stop [Ebola] in Africa.”

One of the most vigilant protestors of the mandatory quarantine is Kaci Hickox, a nurse that assisted with efforts in Sierra Leone. Upon her return back to the U.S., Hickox was quarantined in New Jersey in spite of testing negative for Ebola and exhibiting no symptoms. After being held for over 20 hours, Hickox was allowed to travel to her home in Maine where she has been held in a legal battle with the state over a mandated quarantined. On October 31, a judge ruled that Hickox will be allowed to enter the public without restriction, but she required to monitor herself and report any signs of symptoms or irregularity until November 10.

In the end, the need to protect one’s self and others is heightened with the threat of Ebola. The CDC urges those who have traveled to or are in an Ebola affected area to practice careful hygiene and monitor your health for 21-day period. If any symptoms are experienced, immediate medical attention should be sought.

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