The latest measures, along with decisions by some U.S. states to
impose mandatory quarantines on health workers returning home from
treating Ebola victims in West Africa, have been condemned by health
authorities and the United Nations as extreme.
The top health official in charge of dealing with Washington's
response to Ebola warned against turning doctors and nurses who
travel to West Africa to tackle Ebola into "pariahs".
The Ebola outbreak has killed nearly 5,000 people since March, the
vast majority in West Africa, but nine Ebola cases in the United
States have caused alarm, and states such as New York and New Jersey
have ignored federal advice by introducing their own strict
The United Nations on Monday sharply criticized the new restrictions
imposed by some U.S. states on health workers returning home from
the affected West African states of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra
"Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of
themselves for humanity," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman,
Stephane Dujarric, said. "They should not be subjected to
restrictions that are not based on science. Those who develop
infections should be supported, not stigmatized."
American soldiers returning from West Africa are also being
isolated, even though they showed no symptoms of infection and were
not believed to have been exposed to the deadly virus, officials
said on Monday.
In a statement, the Army said Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno
ordered the 21-day monitoring period for returning soldiers "to
ensure soldiers, family members and their surrounding communities
are confident that we are taking all steps necessary to protect
The Army isolated about a dozen soldiers on their return during the
weekend to their home base in Vicenza, Italy. That included Major
General Darryl Williams, the commander of U.S. Army Africa, who
oversaw the military's initial response to the Ebola outbreak in
"We are billeted in a separate area (on the base). There's no
contact with the general population or with family. No one will be
walking around Vicenza," Williams told Reuters in a telephone
The U.S. military has repeatedly stressed that its personnel are not
interacting with Ebola patients and are instead building treatment
units to help health authorities battle the epidemic. Up to 4,000
U.S. troops may be deployed on the mission.
"From a public health perspective, we would not feel that isolation
is appropriate," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Washington State
epidemiologist and chairman of the public health committee of the
Infectious Diseases Society of America.
The decision goes well beyond previously established military
protocols and came just as President Barack Obama's administration
sought to discourage precautionary quarantines being imposed by some
U.S. states on healthcare workers returning from countries battling
QUESTIONS OVER QUARANTINE
U.S. federal health officials on Monday revamped guidelines for
doctors and nurses returning from West Africa, stopping well short
of controversial mandatory quarantines.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), called for isolation of people at the highest
risk for Ebola infection but said most medical workers returning
from the three countries at the centre of the epidemic would require
daily monitoring without isolation.
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"At CDC, we base our decisions on science and experience. We base
our decisions on what we know and what we learn. And as the science
and experience changes, we adopt and adapt our guidelines and
recommendations," Frieden said.
The Obama administration's new guidelines are not mandatory, and
states will have the right to put in place policies that are more
strict. Some state officials, grappling with an unfamiliar public
health threat, had called federal restrictions placed on people
traveling from Ebola-affected countries insufficient to protect
Americans and have imposed tougher measures.
Australia on Monday issued a blanket ban on visas from
Ebola-affected countries in West Africa to prevent the disease
reaching the country, becoming the first rich nation to shut its
doors to the region.
Australia has not recorded a case of Ebola despite a number of
scares, and conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has so far
resisted repeated requests to send medical personnel to help battle
the outbreak on the ground.
The decision to refuse entry for anyone from Sierra Leone, Guinea
and Liberia, while touted by the government as a necessary safety
precaution, was criticised by experts and advocates as politically
motivated and shortsighted.
Adam Kamradt-Scott, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney's
Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said
the ban would do nothing to protect the country from Ebola while
potentially having a negative public health impact by unduly raising
fears and creating a general climate of panic.
Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread
through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person
and not transmitted by asymptomatic people. Ebola is not airborne.
There has been a growing chorus of critics, including public health
experts, the United Nations, medical charities and even the White
House, denouncing mandatory quarantines as scientifically
unjustified and an obstacle to fighting the disease at its source in
"Anything that will dissuade foreign trained personnel from coming
here to West Africa and joining us on the frontline to fight the
fight would be very, very unfortunate," Anthony Banbury, head of the
U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), told Reuters in the
Ghanian capital Accra.
He said that health workers returning to their own countries should
be treated as heroes.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Jeff Mason, Steve Holland,
Phil Stewart, David Alexander, Roberta Ramptom andSusan Heavey in
Washington, Louis Charbonneau, Laila Kearney, Joseph Ax, Bill
Berkrot and Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, and Steve Scherer in Rome;
Writing by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Michael Perry)
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