October 17, 2014
Travel Ban Issued For Health Care Workers In Ebola Case, Say Texas Health Officials

Texas state health agency and Dallas County officials told healthcare workers who treated Thomas Duncan that they are restricted from traveling until the 21-day Ebola incubation period is over.

The New York Times reports that the workers will not be allowed to enter restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, or other places where members of the public congregate. Travel by airplane, ship, long-distance bus, train, or other modes of commercial transportation is also restricted. Though the document is voluntary to sign, County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County's chief executive and its director of homeland security and emergency management, said he was confident that all of the workers would agree to sign the documents.

"These are hometown health care heroes. They want to do this. They're going to follow these agreements."

Though they are saying signing the document is voluntary, officials note that anyone who does not adhere to the measures could face a state-ordered quarantine. The travel ban comes after nurse Amber Vinson took two flights between Ohio and Texas just days prior to her developing Ebola symptoms. In addition to Vinson, an unnamed healthcare worker who might have had contact with Ebola specimens left the United States aboard a cruise ship from Galveston, Texas.

In Texas, state and county officials late Thursday finalized the documents to restrict the movement of nearly 100 doctors, nurses, and assistants who treated Mr. Duncan for 10 days after he was admitted to the Dallas hospital on September 30, and asked them to sign the restrictions voluntarily. While it does not say so explicitly, the document — authorized by Dr. David L. Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services — effectively requires a worker to stay at home or at the hospital where they worked.

The document states the exact measures that healthcare workers should take.

"1. No individual who entered the first Ebola patient's room can travel by commercial transportation until 21 days after that individual's last exposure. These individuals should not travel by commerical conveyances (e.g. airplane, ship, long-distance bus, or train.) Local use of public transportation (e.g. taxi, bus) by asymptomatic individuals should be discussed with the public health authority.

2. All HCW involved in the direct care of first Ebola patient must be monitored twice a day with one of the monitoring sessions being a face to face encounter. As part of that monitoring, each HCW's temperature will be checked twice per day.

3. No individual HCW who entered the first Ebola patient's room can go to any location where members of the public congregate which includes but is not limited to, restaurants, grocery stores, theaters, or other places where the public may be in attendance or gather, throughout the entire 21 day time period that follows the individual's last exposure.

4. All HCWs who provided direct care in the first Ebola patient's room will be given the opportunity to stay at Presbyterian Hospital on a non-admission status in order to facilitate monitoring; and

5. Any HCW that does not adhere to monitoring or any of these other measures may be subject to a communicable disease control order. "

What do you think of the newly issued travel ban for healthcare workers who came into contact with the first Ebola patient? Should these guidelines extend to those healthcare workers currently treating any Ebola patient in the U.S.?