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Friday, October 31, 2014

When is a quarantine not a quarantine?

When is a quarantine not a quarantine?

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Jacquelyn Martin

President Barack Obama speaks at an event with American health care workers fighting Ebola, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


President Obama said the nation does not need to impose mandatory quarantines for individuals who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus. He countered governors who recommended them.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says U.S. troops serving in humanitarian missions to West Africa will be quarantined upon their return.

Obama sees differences between the two circumstances. Medical personnel, including missionaries, go the Ebola epicenters by choice. They are volunteers. The military personnel sent to West Africa follow orders. The decision is not theirs.

The distinction means little. Persons who go to, say, Liberia expose themselves to the virus regardless of their reasons for being there. Moreover, quarantines are intended to protect not only an at-risk patient but the greater community. The point of a quarantine is to prevent contagion’s spread.

Americans seek leadership but don't find it.

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