Disease experts slam forced Ebola quarantines

Disease experts on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic are protesting mandatory quarantine orders for healthcare workers returning from West Africa. 

Organizations representing infectious disease specialists joined other public health groups in condemning the mandatory isolations in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

{mosads}The issue erupted over the weekend after New York and New Jersey announced that anyone who treated an Ebola patient in West Africa would be held under quarantine for 21 days after returning. Both states have taken steps to loosen the measures after a backlash over the weekend.

“Forced quarantines of healthcare workers with no symptoms of Ebola who have risked their lives to protect others, are unnecessarily harsh and are not aligned with scientific evidence,” the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology said in a statement Sunday. The group has 15,000 members.

“Quarantines may affect the healthcare worker’s ability to make a living and may also have negative emotional and social consequences as a result of being stigmatized for their service.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America added its voice on Monday, saying the states’ approach “carries unintended negative consequences without significant additional benefits.”

Infectious disease experts and epidemiologists play an important role in stopping the spread of Ebola by helping to trace patients’ contacts.

Governors announced the mandatory quarantines after a returning doctor was diagnosed with Ebola last Thursday night in New York City.

Imposed to limit the public’s potential exposure to Ebola, the quarantines have been widely criticized by public health experts, aid groups and members of the Obama administration.

Maryland and Virginia unveiled their own strategies to contain Ebola on Monday, but the measures stopped short of government-enforced isolation.

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