THE UN secretary-general said yesterday that health workers returning from the main Ebola-hit countries “should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science”.
Ban Ki-moon’s comments came after US officials in New York and New Jersey imposed a 21-day mandatory quarantine on a nurse who had returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.
His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the secretary-general also believes that “those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatised”.
He added that any quarantine restrictions “should be based on science, and they also should be based on respect”. He pointed out that about 450 healthcare workers have been infected in the outbreak and 244 have died.
The UN has staff in all three of the worst-hit countries in West Africa.
Nurse Kaci Hickox, held at a New Jersey hospital under the state’s Ebola quarantine policy, did not present any symptoms and could complete her isolation at home, state governor Chris Christie said.
Ms Hickox arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday after treating Ebola patients in West Africa.
She had said she planned to challenge her quarantine in a lawsuit. However, after being released, a lawsuit is unlikely, her lawyer confirmed yesterday.
“She was quietly happy,” said Steven Hyman. “She wants this part of her ordeal to be over. She wants to return to her life.”
Ms Hickox was taken home to Maine, the New Jersey department of health said.
Ms Hickox had no symptoms when she arrived in Newark on Friday, but developed a fever that prompted putting her in isolation. The statement also said that she is now symptom-free.
Meanwhile, a five-year-old boy with possible Ebola symptoms has also been tested at New York’s Bellevue Hospital after returning from West Africa.
The child was reportedly vomiting, had bloodshot eyes and a 103F fever when emergency medical workers wearing protective suits carried him from his Bronx home on Sunday night at 9pm.
He had returned from a family trip to Guinea on Saturday night and five members of his family have been quarantined inside their apartment.
The boy’s preliminary test results were expected last night.
Dr Mary Bassett, commissioner of New York’s health department, said: “He has no clear exposure to Ebola but his exposure history is unclear.”
New York’s first confirmed Ebola patient, Dr Craig Spencer, is being treated in an isolation ward at Bellevue Hospital after contracting the virus in Guinea.
The hospital said that he was “awake, communicating, and in good spirits” but has entered the next stage of his illness.
He is receiving antiviral and plasma therapy after getting a transfusion from Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol.
Dr Spencer, 33, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday – six days after returning from Guinea where he was helping to fight the outbreak with Doctors Without Borders.
Elsewhere, ten people who had contact with a Spanish nursing assistant who survived Ebola have been released from a Madrid hospital, among them the woman’s husband.
Teresa Romero was cleared of the virus last week.