NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal health officials on Monday revamped guidelines for doctors and nurses returning home to the United States from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, stopping well short of controversial mandatory quarantines being imposed by some US states.
Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called for isolation of people at the highest risk for Ebola infection but said most medical workers returning from the three countries at the centre of the epidemic would require daily monitoring without isolation.
New York and New Jersey are among a handful of states to impose mandatory quarantines on returning doctors and nurses amid fears of the virus spreading outside of West Africa, where it has killed nearly 5,000 people in the worst outbreak on record.
The Obama administration’s new guidelines are not mandatory, and states will have the right to put in place policies that are more strict. Some state officials, grappling with an unfamiliar public health threat, had called federal restrictions placed on people traveling from Ebola-affected countries insufficient to protect Americans and have imposed tougher measures.
With thousands already dead from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, concerns are high in the United States about stopping its spread.
Late on Monday, the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore said it was assessing a potential Ebola patient, who was in isolation.
The hospital, one of three designated Ebola treatment centers in the area, gave no further details.
Earlier in the day in New York City, a five-year-old boy who arrived in the United States from Guinea and was in hospital for screening for fever, tested negative for Ebola.