You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Central Texas nurse’s voluntary Ebola quarantine commended

Local case comes as nurse in Maine says she might sue over her quarantine.


Texas health officials are evaluating visitors from Ebola outbreak countries on a case-by-case basis and could use their authority, if necessary, to force into quarantine anyone at risk of spreading the disease, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

They were saved from making a potentially painful decision Wednesday when a Texas nurse landed in Austin after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She voluntarily agreed to isolate herself for three weeks — the time it takes for symptoms to emerge — after she was met at the airport by Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey, spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

Lakey was contacted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was alerted to the nurse by an airport that screens travelers from West Africa, Williams said. The CDC allowed her to fly to Austin because she had no Ebola symptoms and so wasn’t contagious, Williams said.

Austin airport officials said they weren’t told about the nurse and didn’t know about her connections, said spokesman Jason Zielinski. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport isn’t one of the five U.S. airports that receive flights from West Africa and screen travelers.

“She was agreeable to staying home,” Williams said. “This allows us to err on the side of the caution … and if symptoms emerge at home, we quickly know who she had contact with.”

The nurse is allowed to have visitors, Williams said.

Her agreed-to isolation is in contrast with nurse Kaci Hickox who arrived in New Jersey from treating Ebola patients in West Africa and was quarantined over the weekend there against her will. She hired lawyers, and New Jersey let her go home to Maine, where officials also want her quarantined. Hickox told reporters she won’t agree to that.

If Maine doesn’t lift her quarantine order by Thursday morning, she said, “I will go to court to attain my freedom.” That could be a test case of whether state quarantines are legal.

Hickox doesn’t have symptoms, but 21 days haven’t passed.

The nurse who arrived in Austin resides in Central Texas but doesn’t live in Travis County, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. Her county of residence and name aren’t being disclosed to protect her privacy, Williams said.

Quarantines are controversial because they pit an individual citizen’s rights against the rights of others. President Barack Obama raised concerns about mandatory quarantine, and the CDC issued new guidelines calling for returning health care workers to voluntarily isolate themselves for 21 days.

State and local health authorities can follow that guidance — or not.

Texas would consider a mandatory quarantine for someone who doesn’t have disease symptoms but is considered to be at high risk of acquiring the illness and spreading it, Williams said. Dr. Phil Huang, medical director of the Austin/Travis County health department, said he would consider that, too, and has quarantined people with tuberculosis, for example.

His department is monitoring a handful of non-health care workers who were in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. Those people are considered low risk and are required to take their temperatures twice daily and report to the health department.

A health care worker might be asked to stay home for 21 days, or be quarantined, depending on their risk to others, Huang said. Also, a person who refused to comply with monitoring might be quarantined, he said. It all depends on their level of risk, he said.

“People going over there to treat Ebola patients are heroes,” Huang said. “They don’t want to infect anyone.”

Voluntary isolation “appears to be an ideal solution, and a solution that should be implemented nationwide,” said Bill Piatt, a constitutional law professor and expert on mandatory quarantine at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. It “removes any government intrusion on constitutional rights because the people putting themselves in isolation are voluntarily waiving those rights.”

He commended the Central Texas nurse who arrived Wednesday. Her action “seems like a very unselfish thing to do and a very caring thing to do.”

He also supports the government’s right to order a quarantine, when necessary, he said.

A CBS News poll released Wednesday showed that 80 percent of Americans want people returning from West Africa to be quarantined until they are shown to be Ebola-free.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says
BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says

Search crews looking for a male swimmer that was reported missing at McKinney Falls Park on Friday evening have ceased rescue operations and are now in recovery mode, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Emergency responders received a call about 6:30 p.m. from the 5800 block of McKinney Falls Parkway, officials said. One of the swimmer’s...
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman

A grand jury has recommended an aggravated assault charge against a Dallas police officer who shot and killed a pregnant woman in a January confrontation involving a stolen car. The Dallas County district attorney announced Friday that Christopher Hess was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault. The charge is related to the January shooting death...
Officials ID woman who died trapped under vehicle in Jonestown

JONESTOWN Woman who died trapped under vehicle ID’d The Travis County sheriff’s office has identified the woman who died trapped under a vehicle in Jonestown on Thursday evening as 62-year-old Denise Lynn Coonrod, of Jonestown. Authorities responded at about 7 p.m. to a call from the 10000 block of Deer Canyon Drive, officials said. &ldquo...
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas

California’s decision to ban its state employees from traveling to Texas on their taxpayers’ dime after Texas lawmakers passed new limits on gay parents adopting and fostering children set off a new round of recriminations Friday between the nation’s two largest states. But with the usual exchange of barbs came a new set of warnings...
GREG KELLEY CASE: Rangers’ report finds ‘previously undetected’ crimes

A Texas Rangers report looking into new allegations in the case involving Greg Kelley, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy in 2014, is soon to be finalized and hints at a finding of newly discovered criminal activity, Williamson County court documents show. However, the document will not be immediately released to the public...
More Stories