Ebola quarantines are overused in United States

the Clinical Advisor take:

Experts say it is both unnecessary and unintentionally harmful to quarantine people who may have Ebola but currently do not show symptoms, according to a report published by MedPage Today.

"Persons who don't have symptoms don't spread disease," Jeffrey Duchin, MD, chair of the public health committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a phone interview. "Once symptoms develop, patients can be isolated and [providers can] determine at that point whether they have Ebola."

These reactions come after governors in New York and New Jersey decided to quarantine anyone who was suspected of having Ebola, regardless of whether they were presenting symptoms. Kaci Hickox, a nurse who had flown to Sierra Leone to treat Ebola patients, returned to Newark Airport with a fever. She was put in an isolation tent at a Newark hospital, and was eventually allowed to return to Maine for home isolation after threatening to sue.

Linda Greene, RN, past board member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said that quarantining asymptomatic healthcare workers who treat Ebola patients could have negative consequences. The stigma it creates could make professionals less likely to volunteer.

Virginia Date, MD, immediate past president of the American Association of Public Health Physicians, noted that strict quarantine should be used when people can transmit a disease before they show symptoms, but this is untrue of Ebola.

Jesse Bump, PhD, of Georgetown University in Washington, believes the gravitation towards quarantine stems from the lack of standard medical intervention for Ebola. However, experts note that until the outbreak is controlled at its source in Africa, the United States will continue to have to worry about disease control.

Ebola quarantines are overused in the United States
Ebola quarantines are overused in the United States

Quarantining people who might have Ebola but are presently asymptomatic is unnecessary and has unintended negative consequences, according to several experts.

"Persons who don't have symptoms don't spread disease," Jeffrey Duchin, MD, chair of the public health committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told MedPage Today in a phone interview. "Once symptoms develop, patients can be isolated and [providers can] determine at that point whether they have Ebola."

The medical community was reacting to governors in New York and New Jersey announcing plans to quarantine anyone who was suspected of having the deadly virus but was asymptomatic. Eventually, both states clarified what they meant; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday that such people would be subjected to a 21-day home quarantine, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made a similar statement the same evening.

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