Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders nurse who was quarantined Friday following her arrival at Newark Liberty International Airport after allegedly displaying Ebola-like symptoms, is speaking out for the first time following a preliminary blood test which found she does not carry the virus.
In an op-ed written for the Dallas Morning-News, Hickox laments the treatment she’s received by authorities who still have her quarantined and under observation. The Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are currently evaluating whether more testing is necessary.
“I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine,” she wrote.
She also elaborates in great detail what her state of mind was when officials detained her at the Newark airport:
“I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted. Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me. I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong. Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.”
According to Hickcox a female officer looked at her with a smug expression and said, “You have a fever now.”
Hickcox had recently been treating Ebola patients in West Africa, not unlike Dr. Craig Spencer, who did contract the deadly virus and became the first patient to get a positive diagnosis in New York City earlier this week.
Hickox has been quarantined in keeping with a somewhat divisive new policy endorsed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. According to these new guidelines, she will remain under mandatory quarantine for 21 days.
“There is a notable lack of clarity about the new guidelines announced yesterday by state authorities in New York and New Jersey,” said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, on Friday. “We are attempting to clarify the details of the protocols with each state’s departments of health to gain a full understanding of their requirements and implications.”
According to Doctors Without Borders, Hickox is still being kept in an isolated tent without heat and has not been informed about what future tests she will undergo or how long she will be held.
“While measures to protect public health are of paramount importance, they must be balanced against the rights of health workers returning from fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to fair and reasonable treatment and the full disclosure of information to them, along with information about intended courses of action from local and state health authorities.” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement on Friday.
Since Cuomo and Christie took action, other governors have followed suit. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also embraced a 21-day automatic quarantine for anyone traveling back to the U.S. who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa.
Dr. Spencer, according to the Health and Hospitals Corporation and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is awake and communicating. He has reportedly entered “the next phase” of his illness with the anticipated development of gastrointestinal symptoms. He is currently undergoing antiviral and plasma therapy. His fiancée will be released from the hospital on Friday but will remain under quarantine.
Meanwhile, Nina Pham, one of two Texas-based nurses to contract Ebola earlier this month, has returned to the Dallas area after being successfully treated and cleared of any traces of the virus.