AUSTIN, Texas — Early Wednesday morning, a nurse who had been treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone returned to her home in Texas. The nurse, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, showed no signs of the disease, but CDC protocols placed her at “some” risk due to her contact with the patients. She has agreed to voluntarily self-quarantine at her home while she waits for the Ebola incubation period to pass.
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office released a statement Wednesday calling the nurse a “health care hero,” and mentioning that Perry had spoken to her on the phone after her flight landed “to personally thank her for her heroic and selfless work on the front lines of fighting Ebola.”
“In Texas, we have a great tradition of welcoming our heroes back home and this heroic individual deserves our appreciation, our compassion, and our utmost respect,” added Perry. “The tremendous work that she and so many other health care workers are doing in West Africa is making life better for those in afflicted countries and helps protect the rest of the world from the spread of this terrible disease; they are doing vitally important work that makes us all proud.”
The nurse arrived at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, where she was greeted by Dr. David Lakey, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and a member of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, which was formed earlier this month by Perry to address the Ebola crisis in Texas. The task force’s initial recommendations included better screening processes for health care workers who may have been exposed to Ebola and taking swift action to isolate such people until they can be sure they have a clean bill of health. Accordingly, at Perry’s request, the nurse agreed to self-quarantine at home, where DSHS will monitor her for fever and other symptoms of Ebola twice a day.
The nurse’s willingness to comply with the Governor’s self-quarantine request stands in sharp contrast to the situation regarding nurse Kaci Hickox, who was ordered into quarantine by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and, instead of complying, hired an attorney to fight the order, claiming that her “basic human rights have been violated.” Christie backed down and Hickox returned to her home in Maine, issuing a statement through her attorney that she will not agree to stay confined in her house more than two days.
Perry had additional words of praise for the Texas nurse’s decision to agree to the quarantine request. “This health care hero has made a great sacrifice in traveling abroad to minister to those who are suffering,” he said. “Even now home in Texas, she continues to demonstrate her selflessness by agreeing to quarantine herself and further protect her fellow Texans.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.