Ebola: New Quarantines in NY, NJ

New York and New Jersey health officials announced today that all health care workers returning from caring for patients in Ebola hot zones in West Africa will have to go into quarantine for 21 days. The new policy is stricter than the current one recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that calls for health monitoring for 21 days. It was that policy that allowed Craig Spencer, MD to be out and about a day before he was diagnosed with Ebola Thursday and rushed to city-run Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.

New York and New Jersey health officials announced today that all health care workers returning from caring for patients in Ebola hot zones in West Africa will have to go into quarantine for 21 days. The new policy is stricter than the current one recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that calls for health monitoring for 21 days. It was that policy that allowed Craig Spencer, MD to be out and about a day before he was diagnosed with Ebola Thursday and rushed to city-run Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.

The news of a mandatory quarantine surprised some infectious disease experts. Earlier today, in an interview, Bruce Hirsch, MD, said “I think the CDC policy is more than adequate,” Hirsch is an infectious disease expert at the North Shore LIJ Health System and assistant professor at the Hofstra/North Shore-LIJ School of M edicine in Hempstead, NY.

“But since this is the first Ebola case in New York it is completely understandable that the department of health will try to assuage concerns,” Hirsch said, “Given the state of the epidemic in Africa we will definitely be seeing cases here over the next couple of months.”

In a joint news conference with NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, NJ Gov. Chris Christie said the policy is meant to prevent more incidents like Spencer’s case. Ebola does not cause immediate symptoms and could be spread just around the time a person realizes he or she is ill.

Christie made the announcement after a medical worker returning from West Africa today was quarantined after she arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. “We’re agreed that quarantine is the right way to go,” Christie said in an interview with The Record newspaper in Hackensack NJ.

The worker did not have symptoms but was confined because of her travel history.

Spencer is in stable condition in isolation and intensive care at Bellevue, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference earlier today.

The announcement of the new policy came hours after President Barack Obama told reporters the US is considering a similar move.

The NY/NJ policy affects travelers arriving at JFK International in NY and at Newark. A federal policy would also affect Washington Dulles International in Dulles, VA, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, GA, and Chicago O’Hare International in Chicago, Ill.

In other Ebola-related news today, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, released from the National Institutes of Health biocontainment unit in Bethesda MD, met with President Barack Obama, who gave her a hug. Pham was taken ill with the virus because she cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the man from Liberia who died of Ebola in Dallas Oct. 8.