Ebola hitting closer to home


As the Ebola outbreak continues in West Africa, the United States Ebola case numbers have increased to 4, with one death.

The first to be diagnosed in the United States was Thomas Eric Duncan on September 30th; he later died on October 8th. Controversy swarms around his case because when Duncan first went to the hospital in Dallas upon feeling symptoms, he was sent home. It was not until a few days later that Duncan was readmitted and it was confirmed by a laboratory that he had contracted Ebola while in Liberia.

On October 10th it was confirmed that Nurse Nina Pham contracted Ebola while treating Duncan at the Texas Presbyterian hospital. She first received treatment in the Dallas hospital, and then was moved to continue treatment at a National Institute of Health facility in Maryland. She was released and cleared from the disease on October 24th.

Five days after Nina Pham was diagnosed, a second nurse who also came in contact with Duncan tested positive for Ebola on October 15th. This nurse, Amber Vinson, took a flight from Dallas to Cleveland on October 10thbefore realizing she had Ebola. (Everyone that Vinson possibly came in contact with during the journey has since been contacted and questioned). After receiving some care from the Texas Presbyterian Hospital, Vinson was transferred to Emory Hospital in Georgia. On October 28th, she was discharged from Emory.

The most recent case of Ebola in the United States has been Dr. Craig Spencer of New York. When this was written he was still being treated in isolation at the Bellevue Hospital and as of Saturday, November 1st, his condition was updated to stable. Spencer recently returned from working in Guinea for Doctors without Borders.

Official CDC numbers, last updated October 31 reveal that there have been 13,540 cases of Ebola in the outbreak area (7,702 laboratory-confirmed) with 4,941 deaths due to Ebola in West Africa.

Quarantine Battles

Ebola media coverage hasn’t stopped with these four patients, though. Nurse Kaci Hickox made headlines with her opposition to the state-imposed quarantine that greeted her in the U.S. when she returned home from Sierra Leone after working with Ebola patients. A resident of Fort Kent, Maine, Hickox spent her first weekend in the United States isolated at the Newark Airport in New Jersey—where the Governor has placed strict quarantine procedures.

In an interview on NBC New’s Meet the Press, Hickox commented that “When Governor Christie stated that it was an abundance of caution, which is his reasoning for putting heath care workers in a sort of quarantine for three weeks, it was really an abundance of politics.”

Hickox, who was also placed in quarantine in her home state of Maine, took her local Maine quarantine mandate to court and won her case. Instead of being forced to remain within her home for 21 days, District Court Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere “ordered Hickox only to submit to monitoring, coordinate travel with public health officials, and notify health authorities should symptoms appear.” Hickox has accepted these terms, which allows her to go outside and carry out many typical activities, but she is still avoiding crowds and areas with heavy population.

Despite this recent win for Hickox, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 71% of those surveyed actually support a mandatory 21 day quarantine. Many top health and political officials do side with Hickox though, saying that this quarantine is unnecessary and possibly even discouraging for anyone considering volunteering in the outbreak area. The stark contrast between these two opinions could mean that the nation is looking at this quarantine from two different perspectives—scientifically by the health officials, but psychologically in a sense that “it will make everyone feel safer,” by the public.