Questions, Answers About California's Ebola Policy
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (AP) — The California Department of Public Health has issued a 21-day quarantine order for people traveling from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients, but the restrictions will be determined by county health officers depending on the individual's level of risk exposure.
California health officials are trying to strike a balance between public safety and individual rights after New York, New Jersey and Maine received heavy criticism for imposing blanket quarantines, including a nurse who has shown no symptoms of Ebola. There are currently no reported or confirmed cases of Ebola in California.
Here's an explanation of what California's policy means for health workers traveling from affected parts of West Africa and how it compares to other states:
WHAT IS CALIFORNIA DOING TO STOP THE POTENTIAL SPREAD OF EBOLA?
Anyone who travels to California from an Ebola-affected area and had contact with a confirmed patient shall be quarantined for 21 days under an order issued Wednesday by Dr. Ron Chapman, the state's health officer. Failure to comply may result in civil detention and a misdemeanor punishment.
However, the state has defined quarantine loosely to include "observation and monitoring of the Ebola contact and/or limitations on his or her freedom of movement." Local county health officers will decide the specific requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Kristi L. Koenig, director of the Center for Disaster Medical Sciences at University of California at Irvine, said the state's broad definition of quarantine could be interpreted differently from county to county, meaning someone who arrives in San Francisco may be treated differently than a person with the same criteria who arrives in Los Angeles
"I have a concern about that because I think it will be confusing to the public and there could be unintended consequences," Koenig said. "This is a public health emergency of international concern. So we should have international standards."
IS ANYONE IN CALIFORNIA QUARANTINED?
Yes, sort of. San Mateo County health officials said Wednesday that Dr. Colin Bucks, a Stanford School of Medicine professor who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Liberia, has been directed to stay away from work and away from close contact with others for 21 days. He is allowed limited activities outside his home, such as jogging alone.
Bucks, who has no symptoms, is taking his temperature twice a day and communicating with health officials. He is considered to have "some risk."
IS ANYONE ELSE BEING MONITORED IN CALIFORNIA?
Yes. State public health officials have been notified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 19 people who recently traveled to an Ebola-affected country. The state plans to update the number every Friday.
Riverside County's health department announced Tuesday that two people who recently returned from West Africa but said they did not have contact with Ebola patients were being monitored for 21 days by having them take their temperatures twice a day. They are considered low risk.
Orange County health officials are monitoring two recent travelers as well.
HOW DOES CALIFORNIA'S POLICY DIFFER FROM NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY AND MAINE?
California's quarantine order is more nuanced and flexible than the blanket quarantines in New Jersey, New York and Maine. The amount of restriction will be determined by county health officials on a case-by-case basis, based on the risk of exposure. That means some people could be isolated at home, while others deemed lower risk are free to move about while being monitored.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced mandatory 21-day quarantines last week for travelers who have come in close contact with Ebola patients. They issued the mandates after Dr. Craig Spencer, a Harlem resident, tested positive after returning home from treating Ebola patients in Guinea.
Those quarantines have been criticized by health experts and scientists who say health care decisions should be based on established science. They fear that the move will discourage other health care professionals from volunteering in West Africa.
WHO WON'T BE QUARANTINED IN CALIFORNIA?
A person who traveled to an Ebola-affected area as identified by the CDC but did not come into contact with a person with Ebola will not be quarantined.
Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/10/30/3779286/questions-answers-about-californias.html#storylink=cpy