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Just because you’re a saint doesn’t mean you’re not infectious

Update: Kaci Hickox’s real friends should have a good long talk with her about her over-reaction to the quarantine for a very good reason.  Hickox does not know what her infection status is.  That’s because the diagnostic for ebola isn’t accurate until a person displays symptoms.  If it turns out that in a couple of days she does get sick, she and all her defenders who are trying to make her out to be a martyr to New Jersey’s oppressive public health system are going to suffer a severe backlash that will undermine their credibility.  Is that wise?? I mean, with all of the lunatic Republicans ready to seal the US off from the rest of the world, do we really need a potentially sick Nurse Hickox to become a poster child for ebola?  I’m surprised that they aren’t thinking about this and begging Hickox to dial it back and set a better example for others to follow.

Also, I am going to reiterate my suggestion to the politicians to work on getting employers to pay the salaries of employees who are involuntarily quarantined, make it possible for those who can work remotely to do so, and prevent discrimination when they return to work.  It’s part of their civic duty.  Oh, and get the states that refused to extend Medicaid to pay for the treatment of indigent patients.  Better to get in front of the problem now.  Ebola is not the only nasty disease in the world.


I’m blogging from my iPhone because I am irritated with nurse Kaci Hickox’s pathetic whining about being put in quarantine when she returned from Sierra Leone after she treated ebola patients.

Apparently, she is taking umbrage at the fact that she was quarantined in NJ and they were terse with her.  She doesn’t have a fever, says she.  But Dr. Spencer also thought he was magically free of ebola when he returned from West Africa. He was so confident of his superpowers to fight off infection that he rode the subway while he was just shy of being violently ill.

Presumably, Dr. Spencer and other healthcare workers should be aware that they are not invincible and should keep themselves off of public transportation. But we have learned, much to our chagrin, that overconfidence trumps sanity and consideration for the lives of others. I don’t think a travel ban is necessary or useful but it is apparently necessary to keep an eye on health care workers if for no other reason than to keep major metropolitan areas from freaking out.

Quarantines used to be common back in the olden days when we didn’t have cures for deadly diseases, nurse Hickox. (See this PBS Nova primer on the history of quarantine) You are not special. Ebola doesn’t care how self-sacrificing you are.  If you are truly as good and wonderful as you say you are, you will take an old cold tater and wait out your time in isolation. You aren’t a criminal. Just a possible carrier. Grow up.

More on the quarantine: Viral infections don’t have a political ideology but our responses to them apparently do.  Republicans are nauseatingly reflexive when it comes to saving themselves at the cost of pissing off every other interest and people who voluntarily put themselves in danger to aid others.  Some lefties have their minds so wide open that their brains have fallen out and they move too far in the “there’s nothing to worry about, you stupid yahoos” camp.

There most certainly is something to worry about.  The epidemic in West Africa is a genuine crisis that has global implications if it is not controlled.  Ebola has no cure and we don’t know if any vaccine developed so far is safe or effective.  Likewise, we don’t know if ZMapp even works.  Add to this the absence of a “pee on a stick” diagnostic that would allow us to identify infected people before they potentially get on a subway and throw up on everyone within a three meter radius. This is no time to become complacent.

Quarantines are not prison sentences and anyone exaggerating the horrors of involuntarily detention in New Jersey* due to possible infection of a deadly disease is as careless and irrational as the morons calling for us to seal off our borders.  Stupidity, like viral infections, does not respect political affiliation.

One more thing: Yes, Yves, all bodily fluids are potentially infectious once people start getting sick.  Since we don’t know when they will cross that threshold from being merely fatigued to feverish, sweating and throwing up, it’s best they stay away from public transportation.  And here’s something else that is really disturbing: the ebola virus can persist in semen for up to three months after a victim has cleared it from the rest of his body.  So, there, Yves.  Look it up.

* Kaci Hickox’s complaints about her treatment sound like a litany of first world problems.  She was given a granola bar when she told her detainers that she was hungry.  She was held in a “tent” on the grounds of the hospital and it was unheated.  Please.  We’re having a nice Indian Summer here in the Northeast.  Put a fricking sweater on. (Now, she’s complaining to her mother that cell phone reception sucks in her isolation unit.  It’s NEWARK, for Pete’s sakes.  Cell phone reception is notoriously spotty anywhere in the Newark-Manhattan area.  New Jerseyans have to put up with this all year round.  The cell tower is not singling you out.)  Really, you’d think she’d just spent a month at Club Med instead of one of the poorest countries in the world.  I’m embarrassed for her.  Apparently, she’s never volunteered to provide health care in parts of North Philly where there is genuine American hardship and poverty that is rapidly devolving into third world conditions.  Hard to believe she made the front page of the NYTimes with her sob story.

36 Responses

  1. Exactly. I’ve seen people actually say that we can’t expect people to both donate their time by going to West Africa to help AND spend 21 days in quarantine. No one has that much vacation time! OMG. Don’t go if you don’t have the time and or money.

    It’s a pain that there isn’t a nice quick test for the virus. But at this point there isn’t. I wonder if these Health Care Volunteers could request an early blood test to avoid quarantine? How early can we get an accurate blood test?

    Also, Yves at NC made a comment that lead to a question. She says that we can only get Ebola through BLOOD. Blood in puke, poop, or straight out blood. Is that true? I thought it was any body fluid, not just blood.

    From what I’ve read, Ebola attacks every cell in the body and thus is found in every cell in the body (eventually).

    So is she right about the blood only thing?

  2. As far as I know you can get it from any bodily fluid, sweat included.
    In fact, ebola persists in semen for weeks after the rest of the body has cleared the infection. You can look it up. I was surprised.

    • That’s right — I remember now about the semen. If I had a little more umph, I’d bop over there and correct her. She was flat out wrong!!!

    • Here’s what she said,

      Your question reflects a lack of understanding of who is at risk of getting Ebola. It’s people exposed to Ebola patients when they are dying, as in health care workers and potentially family and/or people exposed to the body if the person does not die in a hospital. The disease is blood borne. You need to be exposed to bodily fluids of the person who has Ebola, and even then bodily fluids that contain particles of blood. The big risk of contagion is when they are dying because the disease course makes them basically dissolve into bloody vomit and bloody poop. They expel most of their bodily fluids in the course of dying.

      • She’s wrong.
        You are contagious the moment you start displaying symptoms, that is fever, gastointestinal distress, etc. at that point, every fluid in your body is chock a block with viral particles. I don’t know where she got her info.
        Even if a person sneezes or coughs, they can spread the disease through aerosolization. Ebola does not linger in the air like measles, flu or smallpox, but if you are within several feet of Dr. Spencer on the subway when he becomes contagious and he has a coughing fit, that’s a potentially dangerous situation for the strap hanger next to him.
        I swear, Spencer, Vinson and Hickox should have their heads examined.
        BTW, I think I suggested at the beginning of the domestic infections that employers should be forced to pay the salaries of people who are involuntarily quarantined. Most of them can afford it anyway and it is in the public interest to cooperate in keeping their potentially infected employees at home.
        I’d like to see some Republican asshole argue otherwise.

        • I tried to reply to that comment over there but the reply link didn’t open a comment. I shouldn’t have let it stand all day because it’s dangerously wrong.

          I don’t know why some people are poo-pooing the need for a good quarantine program – like what you said about employers paying people under mandatory quarantine – it’s NOT just ebola…. it could be a bad influenza epidemic.

          It’s REALLY weird that someone could go from the heart of the epidemic and go gadding about NYC without a care in the world or so much as a blood test.

          • The diagnostic test doesn’t work until you’re symptomatic. Friedan and Fauci testified that they’re working with companies to come up with a better diagnostic. They’d better hurry.
            After Spencer and Vinson, we can no longer trust health care workers to self monitor. Hickox doesn’t know she’s not infected any more than Dr Spencer did.
            I am not sympathetic except that she’s stuck in New Brunswick (probably) and her employer is probably going to be a typical American employer and not give her time off with pay.
            That’s immoral imho. Politicians need to address that toot sweet.

  3. Right on.

  4. Thanks,
    I think the whiny little snot should have here isolation increased and it should be in a place like gitmo.

    Well what do I know of isolation. I’m just some slob with M.S.
    Could someone send me her address so I can mail her a sympathy card.

    • I wouldn’t go that far. She did have the misfortune of landing in New Jersey where they really don’t give a rat’s ass if you expect courtesy and civility.
      I lived there for 23 years and couldn’t wait to leave. Just crossing the border from PA to NJ used to make me an instant cranky asshole.
      Still, she needs to get over herself. I completely support the quarantine. It’s one of the most sensible things Christie has done. I just have to wonder which rational person on his staff made that call.

  5. It would be better if caregivers were quarantined before they returned to USofA. After the fact is not the most efficient way to go.

    • I prefer it this way. Detaining them outside the US is unnecessary and mean spirited. It shows irrational fear of infection. For the record, I am opposed to a “travel ban”.

      • Since they would be quarantined anyway, it makes sense to be sure they are not bringing it back to US. Part of the job as it were.

    • “It would be better if caregivers were quarantined before they returned to USofA”

      I think you’re right. If, as the starting post seems to assume, the woman was a walking death machine, allowing her to be in close company with hundreds of other passengers during the airplane ride put those other passengers at risk. And when those other passengers disperse, they’ll be theoretical carriers themselves.

      Quarantine for such a dreadful disease isn’t a bad idea. A badly thought out one tossed together for political points by a dumbass Republican governor is not a good idea, either.

      IMO the nurse is quite right to be POed, and calling here names like “the whiny little snot” is way out of line.

      • On the contrary, it makes perfect sense to have a quarantine of a very limited number of health care workers versus a travel ban. And Christie is not running for anything this year. I’m not sure who this is supposed to help politically. It just makes sense to me because I used to live in NJ and know what a crowded, densely packed part of the country this is. An outbreak there could have serious consequences. If this quarantine forces health care workers to land somewhere less crowded to avoid being locked up in Newark, which is a fate worse than death for this 30 year old, it’s served its purpose.

        • At the start you wrote ” Hickox does not know what her infection status is”.

          So what about all those people on the airplane with her – wherever she lands?

          BTW, unless I’m misinformed, the fat bridge-closer is considering running for something NEXT year.

          • You are assuming that people will want to vote for Christie after they hear about all the crap he’s pulling in NJ with pensions, the trains, the tunnels, the casinos, the white elephant shopping centers in the Meadowlands, the way he f^&(ed over teachers, etc, etc, ad nauseum. And you know, I just don’t think they will. Oh, maybe some stupid elderly voters who think Christie is a strong guy and they *like* authoritarian assholes might. But I suspect that not many other people will.
            Oh, and he did NOTHING to relieve local property tax burdens, so there’s that.

        • You’ve dodged two chances to talk about the other airplane passengers. As in, “Why aren’t they being instantly quarantined too?”

          The second time is darned blatant, for I specifically asked.


          • Firstly, I don’t have to answer any questions. You can demand all you want. Secondly, your question did not appear to be one directed at me but a general speculation to which I may respond, use your own powers of induction/deduction. Do you need to be spoon fed? However, if you had been paying attention, you would know by now that none of those passengers are at risk if no one on the plane is exhibiting symptoms of ebola, even if one of the passengers is already infected and doesn’t know it yet.

        • “Dr. Kent Brantly was symptomatic when he went into isolation in Africa and had his blood sent for confirmation of ebola. The test came back negative. A few days later, Brantly was much sicker and had a second test. This one was positive. So, if Kaci Hickox is making the case that she shouldn’t be stuck in Newark (well, who should?”

          “A single viral particle can kill you.”

          That’s cut/pasted from your latest thread. The implication is that the tests are quite unreliable. That a single virus from any part of the infected patient can reach any susceptible area of folks nearby. Moist eye. Inhaled. Lodged in a crack on chapped lips. Or skin.

          The subject of this thread – the whiny nurse – has not shown any symptoms.

          Yet she is quarantined, and the people with whom she shared several hours of recycled air are not. Assuming she spoke with others, they’re going to have received a certain dosage of her saliva. Toilet Plume Aerosols may be more violent, but coughing and ordinary speech also produce droplets which travel some distance.

          Finally, if you’re not disposed to answer polite questions, kindly tell me and I’ll depart. I’ll take down the site bookmark and never return.

  6. Wow. Such a disappointing post fr one of my favorite bloggers. Can’t believe you’re all caught up in the Ebola monster, and willing to revile a young woman who’s out there doing good work. Yeah, she thinks she was treated shabbily and like a criminal. And it sounds like she was. So she spoke her mind, and you’re in the camp that’s telling her to shut her mouth and stop whining? Huh? You sound an awful like the talking heads on Fox News.

    • I stand by my post. The last thing we need is some aid worker making a big “woe is me! I’m being oppressed!” stink about a quarantine.
      If she can’t set a good example for others who may be potentially infected, then she should STFU.
      You really need to rethink what you are advocating because it is dangerous.

    • That’s right Lisa. Disgusting article. First world problems? She just left her friends and family to spent a month in Sierra Leone helping people with Ebola. You’re being catty and ignorant behind your computer. First world problems.

      • Yeah, whining about a granola bar? I’d say that was beneath her.

        • I read it differently, I thought her issue was the length of time she was denied food & water. It was hours before they supplied the granola bar and bottle of water. Also, since isn’t allowed access to her luggage and they only gave her paper scrubs to wear, she can’t just “put on a sweater.” I think being held against her will and not having adequate access to food, water, and proper clothing are reasonable complaints.

    • BTW, Fox News has its own agenda. I never watch cable news of any kind. I rely on science and facts. A quarantine is EXACTLY what is called for here, regardless as to whether Sean Hannity is jumping on the bandwagon.

  7. My issue is more with your attitude toward the young woman speaking out. You can disagree with her on whether you think quarantine is effective and is called for. I’m more disappointed in you telling her she should shut up about her treatment. Why would you take that stand? She is not whining. She is speaking her mind. Quarantine is a medical process not a law enforcement one. Lets make sure we know the difference.

    • I’d be very surprised if you were not in the minority of people who feel sorry for the treatment she has received at the hands of NJ’s health officials.
      Again, this might have been unnecessary if people like Dr. Spencer and Amber Vinson had taken their potential exposure more seriously. But we are a nation of optimists. It can’t happen to me, I was more careful, only inattentive people get infected, I’m only going bowling, It’s only one subway line, I’m only jet-lagged, it’s my wedding fergawdssakes, I need a dress.
      Now, Spencer is in the hospital and he’s seriously ill and Amber Vinson is very lucky she got transferred to a hospital that knew what it was doing.
      We tend to go out of our way to help people who get sick in public places. This could be potentially dangerous. Is it unreasonable for Americans to want these people to stop gallivanting all over the place and stay put for 21 days? No, it is not unreasonable for us to expect compliance. But these people were not careful and now we must enforce a quarantine. And despite the lady’s protesting too much about her infection status, she doesn’t know any better than Spencer or Vinson whether or not she has ebola. Just think how negative the PR is going to be for her if it turns out in a couple of days that she is sick. Friends of hers should have cautioned her about this but they are thinking more about her martyrdom instead of the potential fallout should she come down with ebola. Friends don’t let friends act like idiots.
      It doesn’t diminish their contributions or sacrifice. But if they want the praise and thanks they deserve, they need to set better examples. Yeah, she needs to shut up and get with the program.

    • If RD is such a favorite of yours, why have I never seen you around these parts?
      Going to Africa to aid people suffering from the scourge of ebola is a wonderful thing to do. But don’t come back from a hot zone and tell the media that your basic human rights are being violated because you’re quarantined for three weeks.
      You know whose human rights were violated?
      The young Iranian woman who was hanged, this week, for struggling (successfully) against being raped.

  8. As Kaci’s classmate and colleague I’d like to thank you Lisa. We welcome soldiers who shoot at people a hero’s welcome with a parade and we treat a nurse who risked her life to save others like a criminal. The disconnect is disgraceful.

  9. All afternoon I’ve heard the same phrase, Quarantine comes from fear and denies science. And I dispute both assertions. I don’t feel fear at all. But, I don’t see any reason why anyone would WANT to risk spreading such a dangerous disease. Quarantine is a proven method for reducing the spread of diseases — how does that deny science?

    I understand that the nurse has passed a couple screening tests but, ALSO that the screening tests are not necessarily accurate.

    Is that correct? It does seem obvious that if a blood test could guarantee health then the quarantine isn’t necessary? But, is it?

    • You are correct. The confirmatory test for ebola is not accurate until the patient is exhibiting symptoms. In fact, it’s even worse than that. In an article in the New Yorker that I read today, it seems like the diagnostic is unreliable. Take the case of Dr. Kent Brantly. When he first started having symptoms, he went immediately into isolation and his blood was drawn for the test. It came back negative. His symptoms worsened and a second test was done. This time, it was positive. The experts speculate that the reason that the test is not accurate is because it was developed on the old strain of the disease and the new strain does not confirm as well.
      So, if Hickox is trying to make her case for no quarantine based on her ebola test results, she’s being deliberately disingenuous. Until she has symptoms, her test results mean nothing and she knows it. But does Joe Blow Average American know it? She is counting on not.
      Some other disturbing things that came up in that article: there is some mystery about how these health care workers are getting sick in spite of their expertise with the PPE they wear. One possible route is proposed as a tiny droplet of ebola infected fluid becoming trapped beneath the moist eyelid of the health care worker. How it gets there, either through touching with an infected glove or aerosolization, no one knows yet. But that’s unsettling.
      The other thing that is unsettling is that it takes only a single virus particle to kill you.
      Now, I’m still not panicking. But I do understand why Cuomo and Christie took these steps. The New York City- New Jersey Megalopolis is the most densely packed area of the country. An outbreak there could be very serious.
      I sympathize with Fauci and understand where he is coming from. But we don’t have an American version of Medicins Sans Fronteires. Plus, Americans are notoriously stingy with vacation days. European doctors? Ehhhhh, not so much. An American health care worker volunteering to work in Africa likely uses up all of her vacation days. If she’s quarantined, well, no American employer is expected to be sympathetic to a do gooder. That’s just money down the drain.
      That’s got to change. It doesn’t help Fauci’s cause to fault the quarantine. We have already seen on several occasions that violations of voluntary isolation are routine.

      • None of the horrible treatment and/or the confusion about blood tests would’ve been necessary if it were standard practice that anyone coming into the US from an ‘infected’ country be required to be isolated/quarantined for the mandatory 21 days in the country of origin; before coming into the US. No worries about either other plane passengers or folks who’ve gone bowling would then be necessary.

        Given the craven character of most of our pols, such a policy of stopping it over there so it doesn’t take hold over here could also be called ‘don’t feed the hysteria’.

        (And absolutely there should be financial support for these people; most of us would be scared sh**less to even think about doing what they do)

        • I don’t think we have to go that far. I’m mostly concerned with health care workers who have been in direct contact with ebola patients and am content to stop there for now.
          What I WOULD like to see is that their careers and income are not derailed by a quarantine. If politicians can get together on that, then I think it would go a long way to alleviating Fauci’s concerns.

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