A US nurse who was quarantined after working in West Africa with Ebola patients is being released, officials said.

Kaci Hickox has been symptom-free for 24 hours and would be taken on a private carrier to Maine, the New Jersey state health department said in a statement.

Ms Hickox was the first person forced into a mandatory quarantine in the state, announced on Friday by New Jersey governor Chris Christie for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from three West African countries.

Mr Christie, along with New York governor Andrew Cuomo, have been at odds with scientists over Ebola in backing 21-day quarantines for medical workers returning from West Africa.

Infectious-disease experts warn that such restrictions are unnecessary and could discourage volunteers from aiding disease-ravaged countries.

The two governors emphasised separately that their policies permit home confinement for medical workers who have had contact with Ebola patients if the workers show no symptoms. They will receive twice-daily monitoring from health officials.

Ms Hickox had complained about her treatment in New Jersey and was talking about suing.

Speaking at a campaign event in Florida this morning, Mr Christie said “when she has time to reflect, she’ll understand” the quarantine.

The World Health Organisation said more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the outbreak that came to light last March, and nearly half of them have died, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Mr Cuomo said quarantines in medical facilities would only be used in some cases, such as if the healthcare workers were from states other than New York or New Jersey. For workers under home confinement, family members will be allowed to stay, and friends may visit with the approval of health officials. Workers displaying any symptoms will go straight to the hospital.

“We’re staying one step ahead,” Mr Cuomo said. “We’re doing everything possible. Some people say we’re being too cautious. I’ll take that criticism.”

Under the protocols Mr Cuomo detailed, the state will also pay for any lost compensation if the quarantined workers are not paid by a volunteer organisation.

Mr Cuomo had criticised Dr Craig Spencer, who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, for not obeying a 21-day voluntary quarantine. But on Sunday, he called the healthcare workers “heroes” and said his administration would encourage more medical workers to volunteer to fight Ebola.

For much of the weekend, the governors had been under fire from members of the medical community and the White House.

“The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those healthcare workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Saying the federal health guidelines are inadequate, Mr Cuomo and Mr Christie announced a mandatory quarantine programme on Friday for medical workers and other arriving airline passengers who have had contact with Ebola victims in West Africa, either in their homes or in medical facilities, and Illinois soon followed suit. Twenty-one days is the incubation period for Ebola.

The Obama administration considers the policy in New York and New Jersey “not grounded in science” and conveyed its concerns to Mr Christie and Mr Cuomo, a senior administration official told the Associated Press.

Dr Fauci argued that policy should be driven by science – and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. And even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

He said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa – an argument that humanitarian medical organisations have also made.

The New York-area quarantine measures were announced after Dr Spencer returned to New York City after treating Ebola victims in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Centre on Thursday to be treated for Ebola. In the week after his return, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant.

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