Ebola quarantines more like prisons

Sam Begin, Team Lead Editor

Ebola Quarantine violates rights
Infographic by Rachel LeMire

Ebola has struck, and the world has been in chaos. Along with death, Ebola has created fear. This fear has taken hold in people who may not have even been affected by it. It has taken ahold of our nation. This fear is expressed in our policies towards people coming from West Africa or even of African descent. If we believe a person has even come near a place with Ebola, we immediately lock them up in a quarantine prison. Is this the best policy? The answer is no. These policies are not examples of a measured and prudent response. They are simply examples of ignorance.

Despite the fact major media networks constantly report on the Ebola virus, very few of us know what it is. Ebola is a virus originating in sub-Saharan Africa. It is theorized to have migrated from bats to humans from people eating bushmeat or game meat.

People have been isolated because of Ebola, and fear of the disease has spread its influence far beyond Africa. This fear is due in no small part to the fact most Americans believe Ebola to be highly contagious. While widespread and deadly in Africa, the risk in America is much lower, due to our sanitation practices and our medical centers. Ebola is not as infectious as we think but we still need to be careful regarding its victims.

Ebola is not airborne. It does not spread through water, food or insects. Its only spread through bodily fluids, and even then, only when the infected is showing symptoms.

These factors are unfortunately things that not all of our politicians and civil servants know. A case in point: Kaci Hickox. Kaci is a nurse who returned from Sierra Leone and was placed under involuntary quarantine. While she had a fever, she tested negative for Ebola. When released, she refused requests to voluntarily quarantine herself. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vowed to take action to “protect the public health and safety for the people of New Jersey,” according to the Huffington Post.

While this seems an appropriate response to a nurse returning from a country where Ebola is epidemic, she never displayed any symptoms of Ebola and according to the World Health Organization, the risk of transmission of the Ebola virus even by direct contact is zero before they are displaying any symptoms.

All this fear and panic over Ebola is simply a result of the ignorance of our politicians and the media blowing things out of proportion. According to NBC News, In the case of Kaci Hickox, her quarantine was simply the result of, in the words of the Maine judge (who ruled her quarantine had to be voluntary), “people are acting out of fear”.

people are acting out of fear”

— Kaci Hickox

However, Kaci Hickox certainly did not make things better by defying calls to isolate herself. By flaunting her freedom she only increased the level of panic and amount of pressure on Chris Christie to take action. Despite the media’s portrayal of the governor’s actions as unjust, nearly 70% of New Jersey residents supported it.

Whats the right measure to take then? The answer is simple. We, as a nation, should not automatically quarantine everyone returning from West Africa, including countries where Ebola is still killing. The fact of the matter is, Ebola simply is not infectious enough to justify it, and those returning should simply be subject to daily check-ins on the status of their health. If they start to become sick in any way, then they should be isolated, not before. If a person does not end up having Ebola, then you have wasted 21 days of a person’s life, and at the expense of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

We, as a nation, have been penalizing innocent people out of a fear blown completely out of proportion. Public safety must be considered, but we must also consider the rights of these individuals who become ostracized whether they have Ebola or not.