- Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere on his decision to reject the need to isolate or restrict the movement of nurse Kaci Hickox because she had no symptoms and therefore wasn't contagious.
And so the truth, as voiced by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere, has set Kaci Hickox free.
Sadly, a majority of people in our country are still shackled by a fear that is not entirely rational.
I understand that. I was just as shackled. Until I researched the Ebola virus on medical sites on the internet. Then I wasn't frightened anymore. I was informed. Freedom can be so easy to achieve.
And so hard. Because Ebola is still a terrifying disease, even if it doesn't stand a fighting chance of really taking off in a country like the United States.
Ebola is the scourge of poverty-srticken, health-care-poor countries in tropical West Africa.
The United States is the flu's turf. The flu kills over 30,000 people a year in our country in spite of the availability of a flu vaccine.
Still, when we've got media commentators and campaigning politicians dismissing the assurances of medical experts and scientists and telling us over and over that this is a disease that we don't know much about and that Ebola could in fact be caught by being in the same space as anyone who's been within miles of an Ebola outbreak, it's hard not to be afraid and to think and act in accordance with our fear.
But wait until the elections next week, after which the politics of Ebola may change and our
safely-elected leaders might decide that educating the public about Ebola is more in their favor than fear-mongering. Or Ebola fever might even fall off the table of national interest altogether while it rages on in West Africa. We'll see.
However in the meantime Judge LaVerdiere's decision has given young Ebola fighter Kaci Hickox back her life.
And yet there's something more important in play here than how the Judge's decision affects Kaci Hickox personally.
This decision sets a legal precedent that will hopefully not only spare other returning health care workers the ordeal that Kaci had to go through upon her return from Sierra Leone, but may affect other outcomes in the war against Ebola.
Because lately the news of possible mandatory quarantines has been hurting the morale of American health care personnel fighting in the plague-ridden countries and consequently having a negative effect on Doctors Without Borders Ebola operations. According to an October 31, 2014 article in The Columbus Dispatch Sophie Delauney, executive director of Doctors Without Borders (Called MSF in French), stated that, "There is rising anxiety and confusion among (American) MSF staff members in the field over what they may face when they return home upon completion of their assignments in West Africa." She added that they fear "facing rising stigmatization at home and possible quarantine." She also said that some health care workers are now being discouraged by their families from returning to the field.
Hopefully the news of Kaci Hickox's legal victory has reached American health care workers in West Africa and will offer them some encouragement.
Because at this time the most crucially important element in fighting the Ebola epidemic is more doctors and nurses.
According to The New York Times:
"...experts...agreed that the most important missing element is enough trained health workers...West Africa is starved of doctors, nurses, hospitals and equipment, so more outside help is urgently needed." ("Better Staffing Seen as Crucial to Close Ebola Treatment Gap", November 1, 2014).
In fact according to The Times, what has saved those Ebola patients in the United States has been more than anything a high level of "supportive care" workers making sure that the patients stay hydrated. One thing medical workers have learned from treating patients in this country is that keeping them hydrated has been the key to keeping them alive.
But keeping people hydrated, constantly replacing the quarts and quarts of fluids and electrolytes that Ebola patients lose through vomiting and diarrhea, takes many workers, especially since each worker can only stay in their protective gear for the maximum of an hour before they need to get out of their suits and cool down. And just the procedure for removing a suit takes three people and twenty minutes.
Therefore many workers are needed.
But if health care workers are discouraged from joining the fight, not because of fear of caring for Ebola patients but because of fear of how they'll be treated when they return home, Ebola will only continue to explode across West Africa.
Which ultimately endangers us here in the United States, because the more Ebola proliferates there, the more chance of it arriving in our country and taking lives here.
But Judge LaVerdiere's decision is a step in a good direction.
1. "Medical Group Slams Quarantine", The Columbus Dispatch, October 31, 2014, page A11.
2. "Nurse free to move about as restrictions eased", Yahoo News, November 1, 2014.
3. "Better Staffing Seen as Crucial to Close Ebola Treatment Gap", The New York Times, November 1, 2014, Page A1.
4. "Alarmed by Ebola, Public Isn't Calmed By 'Experts Say' ", the New York Times, October 31, 2014.