Fearing Ebola, Maine looks to keep Hickox quarantined | News | DW | 31.10.2014
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Fearing Ebola, Maine looks to keep Hickox quarantined

Maine’s governor says he could exercise the "full extent" of his authority to isolate a nurse who has defied a voluntary Ebola quarantine. Police followed Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend on their bike ride Thursday.

Without a court order, officers who followed Hickox on her ride through Fort Kent Thursday could not detain the nurse who helped Doctors Without Borders fight Ebola in Sierra Leone. The 33-year-old could, however, find her freedom limited before long.

Maine officials have sought powers to detain her for the remainder of her 21-day incubation period, which ends on Nov. 10. Though some states have made the three-week isolation period mandatory and Maine's is nominally voluntary, Hickox says she will continue to resist any forcible isolation while she continues to show no signs of the Ebola virus.

"I'm not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it's not science-based," Hickox said.

New Jersey initially quarantined Hickox after she registered a fever last week following a flight from Sierra Leone - like Guinea and Liberia, at the center of the current outbreak. A second check found her temperature normal and she tested negative for Ebola. New Jersey authorities then released her to her home state of Maine after attention to the conditions the state was forcibly keeping her in - as well as the threat of a lawsuit.

Maine Governor Paul LePage said state officials had agreed to consider arrangements to allow Hickox to go for walks, runs and bicycle rides while preventing her from going into public places or coming within 3 feet (about a meter) of others. However, the governor said that those discussions had failed.

Many have criticized mandatory isolation of health care workers.

'Rigorous interactive training'

A US nurses' union announced plans for nationwide strikes and protests next month over hospitals' failure to protect workers from Ebola. Two nurses have contracted the virus in the United States.

Registered nurses plan strikes, picket lines and vigils on November 11 and 12 to demand "tougher Ebola safety precautions in the nation's hospitals," according to a statement from National Nurses United. Some 50,000 nurses in California and 100,000 nurses elsewhere in the country plan to join in, NNU Co-President Deborah Burger said.

USA Obama with Ebola Patient Nina Pham

US President Barack Obama hugs a nurse who contracted the virus in Texas

The NNU demands that hospitals adopt safeguards such as hazmat suits that leave no skin exposed, and air-purifying respirators. Members want "continuous, rigorous interactive training" for US health workers who might encounter patients, including practice putting on and taking off the hazmat suits. Hospitals affected will receive a 10-day notice before any pickets or strikes take place, according to the union.

According to the the World Health Organization, the current outbreak has killed more than 4,900 people out of more than 10,000 cases. Four have tested positive for the virus in the US since the outbreak began in February.

mkg/av (Reuters, AFP, AP)