US & Canada

Ebola crisis: Kaci Hickox and Maine reach agreement

Nurse Kaci Hickox (L) joined by her boyfriend Ted Wilbur speak with the media outside of their home in Fort Kent, Maine October 31, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nurse Kaci Hickox has tested negative for Ebola twice and says she will lead a normal life unless she feels ill

The US state of Maine has reached an agreement with a nurse who was briefly quarantined after treating victims of Ebola in West Africa.

Kaci Hickox has tested negative for Ebola twice and has no symptoms, but Maine officials went to court to try to bar her from crowded public places.

The deal complies with Friday's ruling by a judge that she should be free to travel but must monitor her health.

Only one person in the US is currently being treated for Ebola in New York.

"I am not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," said Ms Hickox.

Ms Hickox travelled to Sierra Leone with the Doctors Without Borders medical charity when the outbreak erupted.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Ms Hickox was forced to stay in a tent in Newark, New Jersey

Upon her return to New Jersey on 24 October she was quarantined in a tent outside a hospital in the city for the weekend despite not showing any symptoms.

The following Monday she was released to return to Maine where she was monitored at her boyfriend's house in Fort Kent.

Fears of infection

The recent infection of a doctor in New York who had returned from Guinea has sparked a debate in the US over isolation policies for healthcare workers who have been from West Africa.

Dr Craig Spencer had travelled on the subway and been bowling the night before he developed a fever, which is the point when people become contagious.

The governors of New York and New Jersey introduced mandatory quarantines as a result.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mayor Bill de Blasio ate at The Meatball Shop where an Ebola patient dined, to try restore calm to the city

The mayor of New York however, took steps to try to quell fears of contagion by following in Dr Spencer's footsteps.

Mayor Bill de Blasio rode the subways, had dinner at The Meatball Shop restaurant where Dr Spencer ate and visited Bellevue Hospital Center's isolation chamber.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has warned against "unnecessarily" strict restrictions on healthcare workers returning from West Africa, saying that their efforts were critical in the fight against the outbreak.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 13 January 2016

11,315

Deaths - probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 4,809 Liberia

  • 3,955 Sierra Leone

  • 2,536 Guinea

  • 8 Nigeria

Getty

However, nearly 75% of Americans surveyed in a Reuters and Ipsos Mori poll said that they believed that healthcare workers who returned to the US after treating Ebola victims in West Africa should be quarantined.

Meanwhile a US teacher at a private school in Louisville, Kentucky has resigned instead of taking paid leave because of fears over Ebola.

Susan Sherman, a teacher at St Margaret Mary Catholic School is also a registered nurse and recently returned from a medical mission trip to Kenya, Louisville's The Courier-Journal reported.

Although Kenya is in eastern Africa and has not yet had any reported cases of Ebola, the school reportedly asked Ms Sherman to take three weeks of paid leave after parents raised concerns.

Meanwhile a doctor in Sierra Leone has died of Ebola, the fifth local doctor to die of the disease there.

Dr Godfrey George from the Kambia Government Hospital died two days after he had tested positive, a senior doctor confirmed to the BBC's Umaru Fofana in Freetown.


Image caption Figures accurate from 4-6 October, depending on country. Death toll in Liberia includes probable, suspect and confirmed cases, while in Sierra Leone and Guinea only confirmed cases are shown

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INTERACTIVE
  • Protective Ebola suit

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  • Surgical cap

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    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles

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    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask

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    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator

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    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs

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    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls

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    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves

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    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron

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    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots

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    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.