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Ebola Nurse Forced Into Quarantine in N.J. Contemplates Civil Rights Lawsuit

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The nurse forced into quarantine in New Jersey because of her contact with Ebola patients in West Africa has hired lawyers who are considering a civil rights lawsuit.

Kaci Hickox was allowed to return to her home in Maine today after being forced into quarantine in New Jersey after landing at Newark International Airport.

Temple University law professor Scott Burris, a health law policy expert, says Hickox's situation raises lots of legal questions.  He says states have the power to quarantine individuals, but the scope of that power is limited, based on risk.

"The risk the person poses of transmitting Ebola to the public, and then the risk of that person not cooperating or coming in if they had any kind of symptoms," Burris explains.

He believes the New Jersey quarantine is overly broad because it applies to individuals with no symptoms or diagnosis.  That, he indicates, is unreasonable given the limited number of Ebola cases in the US.

"There is no justification for this quarantine," he tells KYW Newsradio.

Zach Zobrist, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania, agrees.

"It continues to feed into hysteria around the disease," he says.

Zobrist opposes the quarantine, saying it treats health care workers like pariahs.

"We don't want to discourage people from volunteering to provide care in Western Africa," he adds.

And Zobrist hopes other states take a more reasonable approach to dealing with Ebola.


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