With Ebola quarantine, an outbreak of politics

This undated image provided by University of Texas at Arlington shows Kaci Hickox. In a Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 telephone interview with CNN, Hickox, the nurse quarantined at a New Jersey hospital because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, said the process of keeping her isolated is "inhumane." (AP Photo/University of Texas at Arlington)

Updated 8:40 a.m.: New York Times reports nurse in Newark to be allowed to finish Ebola quarantine at home.

We’re more than a month into the so-called Ebola crisis and so far the number of Americans who’ve contracted the illness here and who weren’t bedside treating Ebola patients in a hospital stands at zero. Still.

The closer we get to Election Day, the more hyperventilating about the danger. What’s going on here? Politics, today’s Star Tribune poll confirms.

Ninety-seven percent of Democrats said they have confidence in the government’s ability to contain an outbreak in the U.S. Only 56 percents of Republicans say they are confident.

Here’s the takeaway, however: Only 18 percent of those surveyed say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that they or their families are at risk. So good job … by whom?

“I don’t think it’s [about] public health,” the University of Minnesota’s Larry Jacobs told the paper. “Any issue that rises to the top of press coverage, that has in any way a relationship to government, is going to be kind of sliced and diced in a partisan filter.”

And much of the media shows no ability to do much more than play to that, evidenced by the fact the first question in yesterday’s U.S. Senate debate was on Ebola, a problem that may well be forgotten by the time the next U.S. senator begins his six-year term in January.

The collateral damage, however, is being heaped on health care workers who have been heroically stemming the Ebola tide.

Kaci Hickox, an epidemiologist, doesn’t have Ebola. She’s not showing any symptoms. She’s been tested twice since returning from Sierra Leone and the results have been negative both times. But there she is, imprisoned in a New Jersey hospital, mostly because the state’s governor is considering running for president.

Christie described her as “obviously ill,” when he ordered her held against her will.

“First of all, I don’t think he’s a doctor; secondly, he’s never laid eyes on me; and thirdly, I’ve been asymptomatic since I’ve been here,” Hickox told CNN on Sunday. “I’m sorry, but that’s just a completely unacceptable statement in my opinion. For (Christie) — a politician who’s trusted and respected — to make a statement that’s categorically not true is just unacceptable and appalling.”

Hickox isn’t a New Jersey resident; she lives in Maine. She wrote about her ordeal in the Dallas Morning News.

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”

My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.

I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?

I recalled my last night at the Ebola management center in Sierra Leone. I was called in at midnight because a 10-year-old girl was having seizures. I coaxed crushed tablets of Tylenol and an anti-seizure medicine into her mouth as her body jolted in the bed.

It was the hardest night of my life. I watched a young girl die in a tent, away from her family.

With few resources and no treatment for Ebola, we tried to offer our patients dignity and humanity in the face of their immense suffering.
The epidemic continues to ravage West Africa. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that as many as 15,000 people have died from Ebola. We need more health care workers to help fight the epidemic in West Africa. The U.S. must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity.

There’s little science to support Christie, and health experts worry it will dissuade “heroes” from volunteering to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Today, Gov. Mark Dayton will release Minnesota’s plan to monitor travelers from areas which have suffered from the Ebola outbreak.

Related: Ebola: Inside the first U.S. diagnosis) (CBS News).

21 Days – An expert in biological warfare warns against complacency in public measures against Ebola (The Atlantic).

Expert Opinion: Travel Bans And Quarantines For Ebola Could Backfire (WBUR).