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Kaci Hickox: “Abundance of politics” led to her N.J. quarantine over Ebola fears

Nurse Kaci Hickox leaves her home in Fort Kent, Maine, to take a bike ride Thursday. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and returned home to defy governors in two states over whether she should be quarantined, said Sunday that she was defending science against politics.

“When Governor [Chris] Christie stated that it was an abundance of caution, which is his reasoning for putting health-care workers in a sort of quarantine for three weeks, it was really an abundance of politics,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I think all of the scientific and medical and public health community agrees with me on that statement.”

The 33-year-old nurse has been at the center of a national debate about how political leaders should respond to the Ebola threat, and how they should weigh the rights of health workers against the threats to public health.

Hickox got into a public standoff with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) last week after she was detained in an isolation tent near the airport in Newark for several days upon her arrival from Africa, where she had been caring for Ebola patients. Hickox, who showed no symptoms of the disease, said she has been following guidelines on daily self-monitoring issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola generally is not transmissible until a person begins to show symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea.

Then Hickox got into a high-profile legal fight when she was transferred from New Jersey to Maine, where she maintains a home. Gov. Paul LePage (R) tried to keep her quarantined at home during the illness’s 21-day incubation period, which for her ends Nov. 10.

On Friday, a Maine judge sided with Hickox, ruling that she must continue daily monitoring of her health but saying that there is no need to isolate her or restrict her movements, because she has no symptoms and is therefore not contagious.

The judge slammed the “misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information” circulating about Ebola.

“We don’t know . . . everything in the world. But we know a lot about Ebola,” Hickox said on “Meet The Press.” “We have been researching this disease for 38 years, since its first appearance in Africa. And we know how the infection is transmitted from person to person. And we know that it’s not transmitted from someone who is asymptomatic, as I am and many other aid workers will be when they return.”

She apologized to her small Maine community, which has been overrun by media. She promised to avoid the center of town. “I will not go into town, into crowded public places,” she said. “You know, I have had a few friends come visit me in my home and that’s absolutely fantastic.”

In a separate interview with the Maine Sunday Telegram that was published Sunday, Hickox said she was haunted by her last night in Sierra Leone, when she watched a young Ebola victim die. “I don’t remember her exact age,” she told the newspaper. “I think she was 10, but to watch a 10-year-old die alone in a tent and know there wasn’t anything you could do … it’s hard.”