Health department adopts stricter Ebola guidelines

The Ohio Department of Health on Friday stiffened its quarantine and monitoring guidelines for health care workers returning from West African nations that have Ebola.

The new guidelines, which are stronger than U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, apply to health care workers returning from the affected nations, even if they had no exposure to potentially infected people.

Those health care workers would be asked to submit to “direct active monitoring,” including:

• Undergoing daily health checks by a public health official for the 21 days;

• Recording any trips outside their homes;

• Avoiding public places;

• and remaining within their health district unless they can make arrangements for public health officials in the district to which they are traveling to assume their daily monitoring.

Ohio health care workers who show no signs of Ebola but were directly involved in the treatment of Ebola patients in West Africa would be asked to stay in their homes, restrict their movements and subject themselves to daily health checks by a public health official for the 21 days, said Dr. Mary Applegate, the state’s medical director.

“With this new guidance, we are asking them to stay home, but they will have some limited activities available,” Dr. Applegate said. “They can go for a run or ride a bike but not go to a Buckeye game where we can’t possibly track all their contacts.”

The governor and state health officials in Maine tried to restrict the movement of nurse Kaci Hickox after she returned from Africa, but a judge on Friday rejected the home quarantine request on the grounds that it violated her personal freedom rights.

But state health officials in Ohio said they have the legal authority to enforce quarantine or home confinement, if necessary.

“We have had circumstances, for example, with contagious diseases like tuberculosis where we had to have law enforcement parked outside the home,” Dr. Applegate said. “There is legal authority to do this both at the local health as well as the state health department levels. But those circumstances really are quite rare.”

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