Nurse quarantined in NJ to go home, boy in NY to be tested for Ebola

Kaci Hickox speaks to her lawyer Norman Siegel from a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Hyman/Handout via Reuters
Kaci Hickox speaks to her lawyer Norman Siegel from a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, October 26, 2014.

(Reuters) – A 5-year-old boy who arrived from Guinea showed a low-grade fever and would be tested for Ebola in New York, while a nurse held in quarantine in New Jersey will be allowed to go home, officials said on Monday.

Nurse Kaci Hickox, held at a New Jersey hospital under the state’s Ebola quarantine policy, didn’t present any symptoms and could complete her quarantine at home, state Governor Chris Christie said on Twitter.

Hickox arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday after treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

She had said she planned to challenge her quarantine in a lawsuit, saying it violated her constitutional rights.

However, with indications she will be released, a lawsuit is unlikely, her attorney said on Monday.

“She was quietly happy,” said attorney Steven Hyman, who said he had spoken to the nurse by telephone. “She wants this part of her ordeal to be over. She wants to return to her life.”

Hickox will be transported home to Maine, the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement.

She remains subject to the state’s 21-day mandatory quarantine, the department said. She had no symptoms when she arrived in Newark on Friday, but developed a fever that prompted putting her in isolation, it said.

She is now symptom-free, it said.

In New York, a 5-year-boy who visited West Africa and has a low-grade fever will be tested for Ebola, City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. The results will be available later on Monday, she said.

The boy’s exposure history to the virus was unclear, she said.

“He has … traveled to one of the three affected countries and has a fever, and that’s what triggers an assessment,” she said.

Local media said the child lived in New York City’s Bronx borough.

Four people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The handling of the first case, a Liberian visitor to Texas in September who died, was riddled with missteps. Two nurses who treated the man contracted the disease but have recovered.

The only patient now being treated for Ebola in the United States is a New York doctor, Craig Spencer, who was diagnosed on Thursday. He had worked in Guinea treating Ebola patients with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

The mandatory quarantine policies put in place Friday by the governors of New York and New Jersey have been criticized amid concern they may discourage health care workers from traveling to West Africa to help in the fight against Ebola.

The virus has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa, where Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit.

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.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo struck a conciliatory tone on Sunday about the new quarantine policy after the White House said mandatory isolation could impede the Ebola fight.

Cuomo said New York wanted to encourage personnel to go to West Africa, lauding their “valor” and “compassion” while protecting public safety at home.

Health care workers and travelers exposed to people with Ebola and who live in New York may stay in their homes for the 21-day quarantine and be checked upon twice daily by healthcare professionals, Cuomo said, adding the state would provide financial assistance if needed.

Hickox, the first health worker isolated under the rules, was placed in 21-day quarantine in a New Jersey hospital after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

She went public over the weekend, saying she underwent hours of questioning at Newark Liberty International Airport and had been transferred to a hospital isolation tent.

In response, the state health department said: “While in isolation, every effort was made to insure that she remained comfortable with access to a computer, cell phone, reading material and nourishment of choice.”

Christie said on Sunday that under New Jersey quarantine policy, a New Jersey resident who had contact with someone with Ebola would be quarantined at home. Non-residents would be transported home if feasible or quarantined in New Jersey.