NEW YORK – Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) nurse who returned to the United States from Sierra Leone on October 24, 2014, is being held in a medical isolation facility at Newark University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.
Preliminary blood tests reveal that she does not have the Ebola virus.
Upon arrival at Newark Liberty International Airport at approximately 1:00 PM yesterday, Ms. Hickox was taken aside for screening. Her temperature was measured and was shown to be normal. She was nonetheless held at the airport. After three hours her temperature was again taken with a forehead temperature reader. The device revealed a slight elevation in temperature. After being left alone in a room for an additional three hours, she was transported by police escort to Newark University Hospital by medical personnel in full protective gear.
“There is a notable lack of clarity about the new guidelines announced yesterday by state authorities in New York and New Jersey,” said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF. “We are attempting to clarify the details of the protocols with each state’s departments of health to gain a full understanding of their requirements and implications.”
Absent clarity of the new protocols, MSF is not in a position to comment on the guidelines themselves.
In accordance with existing federal guidelines, MSF reported Ms. Hickox’s pending arrival in the United States to relevant health authorities.
Upon arrival at Newark University Hospital, Ms. Hickox was placed in a tent set up as an isolation ward adjacent to the main hospital building. Her temperature was again taken with an oral thermometer and was normal.
Hospital personnel are keeping her in isolation and have not informed her of any next steps, including additional blood tests to confirm Ebola infection with certainty.
She has been issued with an order of quarantine, which does not clearly indicate how long she must remain in isolation.
While she is being provided with food and water, the tent is not heated and she is dressed in uncomfortable paper scrubs. She was permitted to bring personal belongings into the tent.
Kaci has written a detailed account of her experience.
Doctors Without Borders is very concerned about the conditions and uncertainty she is facing and is attempting to obtain information from hospital officials.
While measures to protect public health are of paramount importance, they must be balanced against the rights of health workers returning from fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to fair and reasonable treatment and the full disclosure of information to them, along with information about intended courses of action from local and state health authorities.
As throughout the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Doctors Without Borders has enacted strict protocols governing the return of its health workers to their home countries. The organization acts in full compliance with official public health regulations.