November 3, 2014 / 3:55 PM / 3 years ago

Ebola nurse, Maine settle quarantine suit

Nurse Kaci Hickox (L) joined by her boyfriend Ted Wilbur speak with the media outside of their home in Fort Kent, Maine October 31, 2014.Joel Page

BRUNSWICK Maine/WINSTON-SALEM N.C. (Reuters) - The state of Maine and a nurse who had treated victims of the Ebola virus in West Africa reached a settlement deal on Monday, allowing her to travel freely in public but requiring her to monitor her health closely and report any symptoms.

The settlement, filed in nurse Kaci Hickox's home town of Fort Kent, in Maine's far north, where she returned after being briefly quarantined in New Jersey, keeps in effect through Nov. 10 the terms of an order issued by a Maine judge on Friday.

Hickox returned to the United States last month after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and was quarantined in a tent outside a hospital in New Jersey for four days despite showing no symptoms.

She sharply criticized the way both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Maine Governor Paul LePage responded to her case. Christie and LePage have defended how they handled it.

A handful of states have imposed mandatory quarantines on health workers returning from three Ebola-ravaged West African countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while the federal government is wary of discouraging potential medical volunteers.

The most deadly outbreak of Ebola on record has killed 4,951 people, all but a few in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"The Governor was outspoken in his views on the case. He was speaking for people in the state that had real fear about the risks," said Eric Saunders, an attorney for Hickox. "It's hard to deny the fear and the safety concerns. But at the same time, we have to bear in mind what the law and the science says."

The Ebola virus is transmitted in bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit, of people showing symptoms of the disease, according to medical experts. It is not airborne.

A spokeswoman for LePage's office declined to comment on the case, as did the office of the Maine Attorney General.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday warned against "unnecessarily" strict restrictions on healthcare workers, saying their efforts were critical to stopping Ebola's spread in West Africa.

"They are extraordinary people who are giving of themselves, they are risking their own lives," Ban told a press conference in Vienna.

NORTH CAROLINA MONITORING

A patient being monitored in North Carolina for Ebola after arriving in the United States last week from Liberia has so far tested negative for the disease, state health officials said on Monday, adding that the results still need to be confirmed.

The patient, who arrived at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday and developed a fever on Sunday in North Carolina, will continue to be monitored in isolation at Duke University Hospital in Durham, officials said.

Additional testing to confirm the preliminary result will be conducted 72 hours after the fever began, the state's Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The person, who was not identified, had no symptoms upon arrival in the United States and had no known exposure to Ebola in Liberia, the department said, adding the patient would be evaluated for other possible causes of fever.

U.S. health care providers have been on heightened alert for potential Ebola cases, and officials in North Carolina said they had been working since the summer to prepare for the possibility of the virus being diagnosed in the state.

Some states have restricted the movement of people returning to the United States from the stricken West African nations beyond guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only one person in the United States is currently being treated for Ebola, a New York doctor, who is in stable condition.

Additional reporting by Chris Michaud and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Susan Heavey and James Dalgleish

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