A woman who arrived in New Jersey on a flight from west Africa has tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary test.
New Jersey Department of Health said the woman remains under observation and in isolation at University Hospital in Newark. She is a health care worker who arrived yesterday from west Africa, where she had contact with Ebola patients.
She initially showed no symptoms of the virus but later developed a fever.
The woman, who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport, became the first traveller to be quarantined under an Ebola watch in New York and New Jersey. The governors of those states had announced a mandatory 21-day quarantine of medical workers and other airline passengers who have had contact with Ebola victims.
The move came after a doctor who returned to New York City a week ago from treating Ebola patients in Guinea fell ill with the virus. Many New Yorkers were dismayed to learn that in the days after he came home, Craig Spencer travelled on the subway system, took a taxi, went bowling, visited a coffee shop and ate at a restaurant in the city of eight million.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie and New York’s Andrew Cuomo said the case led them to conclude that the two states needed precautions more rigorous than those of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends monitoring of exposed people for 21 days but does not require quarantine.
“It’s too serious a situation to leave it to the honour system of compliance,” Mr Cuomo said.
Those who are forcibly quarantined will be confined either to their homes or, if they live in other states, to some other place, most likely a medical facility, the governors said. Those quarantined at home will receive house calls from health officials. The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days.
Howard Zucker, acting New York state health commissioner, said any medical staff who have treated Ebola patients in the three worst-hit west African countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – would be automatically quarantined.
Mr Cuomo said anyone arriving from the three countries will be questioned at the airport about their contact with Ebola sufferers.
The governors gave no estimate of how many travellers would be subject to quarantine, but Mr Cuomo said “we’re not talking about a tremendous volume of people coming in from these areas” and added that there were no plans to hire more screeners at airports.
The two states are home to Kennedy Airport and Newark Liberty, both major international portals.
Officials said they would track flight connections and screen passengers upon disembarking. But they offered few details on how the quarantine would be enforced and the consequences for people flouting the restrictions by going out in public.
Mr Cuomo criticised Mr Spencer, saying he should have stayed at home until any danger period for the disease had passed. The virus can hide in the body for up to 21 days before a person develops symptoms.
“Dr Spencer is a valued fellow and was a volunteer and did great work, but that was a voluntary quarantine situation for 21 days. He’s a doctor and even he didn’t follow the voluntary quarantine, let’s be honest,” Mr Cuomo said.
Doctors at Bellevue said Mr Spencer was well enough yesterday to speaking to people on his mobile phone.
His fiancee has also been quarantined at the hospital, though she had not developed any sign of the illness.
Colleagues in Guinea said Mr Spencer conscientiously followed safety procedures in place at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Gueckedou.
“I’m asking myself how he got the virus because he was a rigorous man,” said a hygienist.
“Since we learned that he was infected, we’ve had low morale,” the hygienist said. “We are praying for Craig and for ourselves because we rub shoulders with death every day.”