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Bessent: Mandatory Ebola quarantine a good idea

Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, who treated Ebola patients

Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, who treated Ebola patients in Guinea, tested positive at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan for Ebola on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Facebook

Quarantine will now be the first stateside stop for anyone who’s had contact with Ebola and arrives in the United States through New York City-area airports. The first person confined under the new standard that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday is a female health worker who cared for patients in Africa. Even though she reportedly has no symptoms, playing it safe is the right thing to do.

Federal officials should follow our lead.

That's one obvious lesson they should take from the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, who was stricken with Ebola after treating patients in West Africa.  Medical workers returning from the front-lines should be quarantined for the 21 days it takes to ensure they’re disease free.

Volunteers like Dr. Spencer risk their lives fighting the worst Ebola outbreak in history. What they do is noble, courageous and critical.

But since the outbreak began about seven months ago, 443 health care workers have been infected while in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. Tragically, 244 have died. Two nurses in Texas were also infected while treating Ebola — though, happily, both Nina Pham and Amber Vinson have recently been declared virus free.

Two people who recently arrived in Suffolk County from West Africa have not been quarantined. They were screened by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at JFK, displayed no symptoms and were allowed to go home where they will be monitored for 21 days, according to Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

The two  apparently had no direct contact with Ebola unlike Spencer, who volunteered in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders.

He regularly checked his temperature after returning to his Harlem apartment, as recommended, and quickly sought treatment after developing a tell-tale fever. And he was apparently symptom free when he used subways and a Uber car to move about the city, so there is little risk he spread the virus to others.

But why take the chance?

After life-threatening, hardship duty fighting Ebola at the epicenter of the outbreak, medical workers and others should be given a nice, cushy quarantine.

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