Bioethics Blogs

Responding to Ebola: The Question of Quarantine

Dr. Craig Spencer, the first person in New York confirmed to have Ebola, is a clearly dedicated and selfless physician who worked for Doctors Without Borders in West Africa helping to take care of people critically ill with Ebola. As is well known by now, before showing signs of the Ebola virus, he took the subway, rode in a taxi, visited a bowling alley and a restaurant, and had close contact with his fiancée and three friends.  However, he followed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding Ebola exposure and self- evaluation of symptoms by taking his temperature throughout the day.

As a nurse practitioner working and teaching in New York City I had doubts that the city was taking a strong enough stance against the possible spread and containment of Ebola. The news of Dr. Spencer’s infection fueled personal concerns and a city’s fears. That a physician who treated Ebola infected patients could have roamed freely in our city of over 8 million people seemed to indicate poor judgment on the part of our public health officials  in response to a disease that kills over 50 percent of its victims. 

Last weekend, New York and New Jersey officials had new policies in place. Health care workers and others coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone, or Libera who had had any contact with Ebola patients would be quarantined for 21 days. However, the CDC remains committed to reaffirming that the possible transmission from Ebola in the general population isextremely low and does not recommend quarantine for asymptomatic travelers or health professionals treating Ebola.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.