Ebola crisis: Kaci Hickox fights quarantine in Maine

media captionEbola nurse Kaci Hickox : 'I don't think this is an acceptable line to be drawn'

A nurse who cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone is fighting the US state of Maine over its right to quarantine her against her will.

In a test case for returning US health workers, Kaci Hickox has vowed to leave her home on Thursday if the state does not lift the restrictions.

President Barack Obama has been sharply critical of isolation being forced on people he says are "American heroes".

Almost 5,000 people have died from the Ebola virus, mostly in West Africa.

The US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, is expected to call for a stronger international response when she meets EU officials in Brussels.

She has been visiting the countries most affected - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - to show US support, as well as Ghana, where the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response is based.

In other developments

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia
  • South Africa's first black billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, donated $1m (£620,000) to Guinea
  • The US joined 30 other nations from the Americas at an Ebola conference in Cuba
  • In UK, an umbrella of charities - the Disasters Emergency Committee - is to launch an Ebola appeal

Deaths from Ebola

The infection last week of a doctor in New York who had returned from Guinea has sparked a debate in the US over isolation policies for people coming back from West Africa.

Dr Craig Spencer had travelled on the subway and been bowling the night before he developed a fever, which is the point when people become contagious.

The governors of New York and New Jersey introduced mandatory quarantines as a result, and Ms Hickox was outraged to be put in a tent in Newark on returning from Sierra Leone on Friday.

media captionSierra Leone has one of the world's highest infant mortality rates, and the Ebola outbreak is likely to push it even higher.

Officials said she had a temperature - which she denies - but she was released from Newark on Monday and flown back to Maine to be monitored at her boyfriend's house in Fort Kent.

"I am not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," said Ms Hickox, who has tested negative for Ebola twice and has no symptoms.

She appeared briefly outside the house on Wednesday night to speak to reporters and express her continued frustration.

"I'm not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it's not science-based," she said.

image copyrightAP
image captionMs Hickox was forced to stay in a tent in Newark, New Jersey
image copyrightAP
image captionHer boyfriend's home in northern Maine is being watched by police

But Maine Governor Paul LePage has said he will seek legal authority to keep her isolated at home until 10 November.

"While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state," he said in a statement.

California became the latest US state to announce tough rules for people returning from the Ebola-hit region.

These states are defying updated federal guidelines issued on Monday that call for active monitoring but not quarantine.

Twice this week, President Obama has condemned quarantine as a policy based on fear, not science, while praising the work of US aid workers.

"We need to call them what they are, which is American heroes," he said. "They deserve our gratitude, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect.''

But he has faced questions about why the Pentagon is imposing a 21-day isolation on returning military personnel, despite them not coming into contact with Ebola patients while working to build clinics in West Africa.

image copyrightEuropean Press Agency
image captionObama called aid workers heroes for tackling the virus at source

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • No proven vaccine or cure
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host