WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nurse held in quarantine under new Ebola rules imposed by three U.S. states sharply criticized the order that put her in isolation in New Jersey on Sunday, saying she was healthy and that politicians shouldn’t meddle in medical decision-making.
Kaci Hickox, quarantined after landing at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday en route from Sierra Leone, said she posed no threat to public health even though she cared for Ebola patients. She said she has shown no symptoms of the deadly disease, the only time an Ebola patient is contagious.
“All I want is to go home to my partner who is completely happy to have me home and is not scared at all because he knows that I know more about Ebola than most people in the U.S.,” Hickox said in a telephone interview with CNN.
Hickox on Friday became the first person isolated under new rules issued by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his counterparts in New York and Illinois. The requirements are a response to fears that federal guidelines did not go far enough to stop the spread of Ebola, which has killed almost half of more than 10,000 people who contracted it, mainly in Africa.
She was particularly scathing about Christie’s remarks that she was “obviously ill” when she arrived at Newark airport.
“First of all I don’t think he’s a doctor and secondly he’s never laid eyes on me,” she said. “I am completely healthy and with no symptoms,” Hickox told CNN.
The three states issued the new rules after a New York doctor fell ill with Ebola, days after he returned to New York from treating patients in Guinea.
Before he came down with symptoms, Dr. Craig Spencer moved freely around the city, raising concern even though he was not considered contagious until his body temperature rose.
All travelers from the Ebola zone must enter the United States through one of five large U.S. airports. Three of them are in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
The three-state directive was criticized as a “little bit draconian” by a senior U.S. health official on Sunday, and go well beyond the screening of any passengers coming from the three countries that have borne the brunt of Ebola.
“We don’t need politicians to make these kind of decisions. We need public health experts to make these decisions,” Hickox said in the interview.
Hospital staff, who she praised for offering her books and Pizza Hut deliveries, were caught in a “political mess,” Hickox said.
Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh