CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Categorizing at-Risk Travelers

On Monday, CDC issued new guidelines for how states should address travelers from the nations most affected by the Ebola outbreak, NBC News reports (Fox, NBC News, 10/27).

Guideline Details

According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, the guidelines include four risk levels for individuals who might have had exposure to Ebola patients and the protocols that should be followed for each patient type (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 10/27).

The four categories are:

High risk: This includes people who have been exposed to the virus, either through direct unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual or through an accident like a needle stick or a splash to the eyes, nose or mouth. These people should remain in voluntary isolation in their homes and monitored in person each day by a health official (Thompson, HealthDay, 10/27).

Some risk: This includes health care workers and individuals who may have been in the same home as an infected patient but had no direct contact. These individuals should avoid from public areas or traveling long distances without approval from health authorities. They should receive daily, in-person monitoring from a health official (Modern Healthcare, 10/27).

Low risk: This includes hospital employees in the U.S. who treated Ebola patients and travelers from Ebola-stricken nations who have not had contact with infected individuals. These people can be monitored via phone and do not need to restrict their travel or public activities (HealthDay, 10/27).

No risk: This includes people who had contact with an Ebola patient before he or she exhibited any symptoms or who traveled to a nation struggling with an outbreak more than 21 days ago. Officials say there is no need for any monitoring of these individuals (NBC News, 10/27).

The new guidelines put federal authorities at odds with some states — including New York and New Jersey — that have announced mandatory quarantine policies for health care workers returning from West African nations (McKay et al., Wall Street Journal, 10/27). The White House and infection control experts have argued that those policies are not based on science (Lauerman, Bloomberg, 10/28).

Frieden said, “We are concerned about some policies that we have seen … that might have the effect of increasing stigma or creating false impressions,” adding, “It’s not nearly as contagious as the flu, the common cold, measles or any other infectious diseases” (NBC News, 10/27).

However, Frieden said if states “wish to be more stringent than what CDC recommends, that’s within their authority” (Bloomberg, 10/27). According to the New York Times, CDC does not have the regulatory power to enforce the guidelines (Shear/Tavernise, New York Times, 10/27).

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