'Stop calling me Ebola nurse', says Kaci Hickox

Kaci Hickox was quarantined despite testing negative for Ebola

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The Independent US

An American health worker who tested negative for Ebola after working in west Africa has spoken out against being branded "Ebola nurse" – and accused politicians of exploiting her for their own gain.

Kaci Hickox claims she never had symptoms of Ebola and she tested negative for the deadly virus on the first day of her three-week isolation despite politicians and health officials allegedly forcing her into state-imposed quarantine against her will.

She accused governors Chris Christie and Paul LePage, of New Jersey and Maine respectively, of pushing her into "overzealous" 21-day medical isolation until 10 November and exaggerating the potential risks.

The 33-year-old Doctors Without Borders nurse, from Maine, wrote in a Guardian "Comment is Free" opinion article: "I never had Ebola, so please stop calling me “the Ebola Nurse” – now!

"This is what did happen: I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians after I volunteered to go and treat people affected by Ebola in west Africa.

"My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear."

Ms Hickox also claims that her boyfriend Ted Wilbur, a nursing student, was banned from entering his university campus after staff discovered that his partner was being tested for the virus on return from Sierra Leone.

She has had no symptoms of the disease - which is contracted via direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person - but her temperature was said to be at a high of 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) when she was tested on arrival at Newark Liberty International Airport on 24 October.

 

To further illustrate her point on the authorities' action, she also mentions a teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, who was asked to stay at home for three weeks after returning from Kenya, despite the East African country not having had one case of Ebola.

"This is disheartening: Even with just 10 total patients treated for Ebola in this country and no transmission from a medical aid worker to another person on US soil, politicians are still escalating anxieties and giving the public permission to discriminate, stigmatize and even hate aid workers like me.

"By doing so, they are not just limiting the help Americans can give to people suffering from Ebola – American politicians are actively limiting the world’s understanding of a disease so many people fear," she added.

She received severe backlash for her campaign on her Facebook page from nearly 2,000 people including Maine residents and health professionals.

Ms Hickox was told she had to spend three weeks in an isolation tent at a hospital however, after she threatened legal action, she was allowed to put herself in voluntary quarantine in accordance with Maine state rules.

Maine Governor LePage, who was re-elected on 4 November, had said: "While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state."

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