The American doctor who became the first known Ebola patient on U.S. soil has expressed concern about the imposition of mandatory quarantines on relief workers returning from West Africa. Dr. Kent Brantly said quarantines, such as those enacted in New York and New Jersey, could discourage volunteers from traveling to Ebola-stricken countries.
Brantly said the way volunteers returning to the United States are treated will have a direct impact on others who are considering travel to West Africa to help Ebola victims.
“If we quarantine people and treat them like criminals when they come back, telling them ‘you must be confined to your house and have no contact with people,’ that is detrimental in multiple ways,” said Brantly.
He said quarantines erode the sense of compassion for those who need it most.
“If we treat the returning workers like criminals, how can we have compassion on the people they are going to help?” asked Brantly.
He voiced his concerns at an Overseas Security Advisory Council briefing at the State Department, where he also described his own experience after contracting Ebola in Liberia.
A colleague, Dr. Lance Plyler, said at one point, Brantly’s situation appeared bleak.
“I have been practicing internal medicine for over 20 years, and I was very convinced that he had a couple of hours to live, and I just looked at him and I could not believe it,” said Plyler.
Brantly was flown to an Atlanta hospital in August, where he eventually recovered from Ebola.
He urged compassion for the thousands of West Africans who are still battling the virus.
“We have to go help them. They are in desperate need of help from the international community,” he said.
Brantly also said the United States needs a unified policy for dealing with volunteers who are returning home after helping those affected in West Africa.