Americans overwhelmingly want health workers returning from Ebola hot spots quarantined

A new Reuters-Ipsos poll shows that 75% of Americans favor quarantining health care workers returning from treating Ebola patients in Africa.  And 80% think their movements should be controlled:

The findings show broad support for the type of controversial new screening rules announced by the governors of New York and New Jersey for people arriving at New York City's international airports from the three West African countries where the virus has killed nearly 5,000 people.

Under the rules, state health officials are ordering anyone who has had direct contact with Ebola into a mandatory quarantine of up to 21 days, at home in some cases, even if they have no symptoms.

A quarter of poll respondents thought quarantines were unnecessary for healthcare workers, and about one in six respondents thought such workers should neither monitor their health themselves nor be actively monitored by officials.

The poll, which was conducted online with 1,681 people who chose to participate between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, did not ask whether quarantines should be mandatory or voluntary. Respondents were asked specifically whether health workers returning from West African countries with Ebola should have their travel and movements controlled.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and many public-health experts have criticized mandatory quarantines, saying they are unhelpful because a person without symptoms cannot spread the virus.

Only one person is known to have been ordered into quarantine under the new state rules, an American nurse named Kaci Hickox who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport shortly before the rules were announced on Friday, Oct. 24.

Hickox, who had been working with Doctors Without Borders helping Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, was confined to a tent at a local hospital for several days and repeatedly decried her imprisonment. New Jersey officials handed her over to state officials in Maine who tried to confine her to her home before a state judge ruled that a quarantine was unnecessary on Friday. The state and the nurse reached a deal on Monday, allowing her to travel freely and requiring her to monitor her health.

The American public appears to have more common sense than most of the politicians in Washington, who are saying we can't hurt the feelings of these returning health care workers by quarantining them because it might discourage others from going to West Africa to help out.  If someone who was thinking of going to help changes his mind because of this, I question his motives to begin with.  This is not about them.  It's about everybody else, and if you're so self-centered and have such an expansive view of your heroism, then you're probably going for the wrong reasons anyway.

I'd try to stay away from the one in six survey respondents who don't think the returning health care workers should even self-monitor their condition.  They're likely to either catch the virus before the rest of us, or put their hands in fire to see if it's hot.  Not too smart.

Ebola as an issue is likely to die down some for a few months as it picks up steam in Africa.  The virus is still spreading in the most affected countries, although there are signs in Liberia that authorities may be making good progress against the disease.  They are far from being out of the woods, but any encouraging news at this point is welcome.

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