FORT KENT — A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa will be quarantined at home for 21 days after the last possible exposure to the disease under Maine’s health protocols, health officials said.
The nurse, Kaci Hickox, left a New Jersey hospital on Monday and headed toward home in Fort Kent, where her partner is a student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Gov. Paul LePage said he understands health care workers’ desire to go home after working in West Africa but “we must be vigilant” to protect the health of other people.
“Upon the healthcare workers’ return home, we will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients,” LePage said in a statement. “Additionally, we will work with the healthcare worker to establish an in-home quarantine protocol to ensure there is no direct contact with other Mainers until the period for potential infection has passed.”
He said the state would work to make the nurse “as comfortable as possible.”
Hickox, who volunteered in Africa with Doctors Without Borders, spent the weekend in a tent in New Jersey despite having no symptoms other than a slightly elevated temperature she blamed on “inhumane” treatment at Newark International Airport. She said she never had symptoms and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation. She left New Jersey in a private car for the drive to her home in Maine.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines. LePage’s office later tried to suggest the Maine quarantine was not mandatory.
“We fully expect individuals to voluntarily comply with an in-home quarantine,” LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said. “If an individual is not compliant, the state is prepared to take appropriate action.”
Bennett did not immediately say what “appropriate action” might be.
New Jersey officials said Hickox has been symptom-free for 24 hours after being quarantined over the weekend upon her arrival from West Africa on a commercial jetliner.
In Fort Kent, Northern Maine Medical Center is ready to care for an Ebola-infected patient, if necessary, a spokeswoman said.
The University of Maine System is working closely with the governor’s office in response to Hickox’s return, spokesman Dan Demeritt said. Emergency officials were meeting on the university’s Fort Kent campus and working with community leaders, to ensure “what safeguards and preparations, if any, we need to make on campus,” he said.