Yesterday it was announced that two states--New York and New Jersey--are instituting a mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers returning from treating Ebola-stricken patients in West Africa. This quarantine was fueled by the panic engendered by the diagnosis of Ebola in Dr. Craig Spencer and not by any scientific basis regarding its efficacy.
There are several points to consider regarding this unwarranted quarantine:
1. Ebola is not contagious during its incubation period and when contagious is so only via contact with blood and body fluids. Those in the incubation period of Ebola pose no risk to others.
2. Healthcare workers in these states are already self-monitoring themselves for signs/symptoms of illness as well as subject to active surveillance by the local health departments. What added benefit will the quarantine have other than to assuage and validate panic?
3. Such a quarantine basically will have a stultifying effect on those from New York and New Jersey who want to travel to ground zero to fight this virus at its source since they will be subject to a 21-day quarantine upon return, irrespective of symptoms.
The basic fact about this outbreak, often lost in the shuffle is that, akin to an actual war, taking the battle to the homeland of the aggressor is the only way to remove this risk. On that front, we suffered a major setback with Ebola's incursion into Mali. Just like Sherman's march on the South and Scipio Africanus' victory in Carthage, the immortal head of this Hydra must be severed in Africa.