Ebola survivor Rick Sacra, an American doctor infected in Liberia and treated last month in the United States, says the 21-day mandatory quarantine on returning health care workers imposed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday is unnecessary for those not showing symptoms and creates the feeling of a "police state."
"I'm sure it's effective, but it's more than what's needed medically," Sacra said on the "Today" show Monday. "We know that individuals who do not have symptoms cannot transmit the virus."
Sacra, a 52-year-old American aid worker who has spent much of the last two decades working in Liberia, said returning doctors should be treated as heroes — and not infectious-disease carriers.
"We should view [Ebola doctors] the same way we view firefighters and police officers — people who are putting themselves in harm's way to make a difference," Sacra said. "When you welcome that kind of person back from their service with a 21-day quarantine, that kind of puts a big burden on them. It's going to reduce the ability of our nation to fully take part in the global response to Ebola."
On Sept. 5, Sacra arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center, where he was treated in isolation, receiving a pair of blood transfusions from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Ebola-infected doctor treated in Atlanta.
"We just need to pay attention to the science, to the facts, and — you know, let that guide us through," Sacra said on CNN. "The fact is that these people who are being quarantined who are not ill are not at risk. When you don't have symptoms, you are not a risk."
Earlier this month, Sacra was admitted to a hospital in Worcester, Mass., and placed in isolation as a precaution after complaining of flulike symptoms. The CDC later said Sacra had tested negative for Ebola.
After his release, Sacra told CBS News he felt stigmatized. "People are thinking, 'That's that Ebola guy,'" he said.
"Let's appeal to the honor of these amazing self-sacrificing health care workers," Sacra added Monday. "Let them have a role in monitoring their own condition, instead of doing it like a police state."
Others in the health care community have made similar statements.
On Sunday, Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, sharply criticized Christie, saying, "My basic human rights have been violated." Hickox, 33, of Maine, was released Monday.
"I don't think he's a doctor; secondly, he's never laid eyes on me; and thirdly, I've been asymptomatic since I've been here," Hickox told CNN in a phone interview. "There always needs to be a balance, because I also want to be treated with compassion and humanity. I don't feel like I have been treated that way in the past three days."
Hickox was placed under mandatory quarantine Friday after she was screened upon her arrival at Newark and was found to have a fever. Hickox blamed the reading on "an instrument error" and said when she arrived at the hospital she did not have a fever.
"They were using a forehead scanner, and I was distressed and a little bit upset and so my cheeks were flushed," Hickox said. She also said she experienced “inhumane” and “prison”-like conditions while being in a "tentlike" structure outside the hospital.
"We need to stress the fact that we don't need politicians to make these kinds of decisions," she added. "We need public health experts to make these decisions."
One of the most respected names in the field of infectious diseases also said the New Jersey move was a step too far. "As a scientist and as a health person, if I were asked I would not have recommended [mandatory quarantines]," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.
"What we want to do is to make sure, first, protect the American public, but do so based on scientific data, where we keep repeating over and over again, the scientific data tells us that people who are without symptoms, with whom you don't come into contact with body fluids, are not a threat, they will not get infected."