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Ebola nurse to be advocate for health workers

November 10, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine nurse who battled politicians over her quarantine after she returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa said she will continue speaking out on behalf of public health workers.

Monday marks the 21st day since Kaci Hickox’s last exposure to an Ebola patient, a 10-year-old girl who suffered seizures before dying alone without family.

On Tuesday, Hickox will no longer require daily monitoring for Ebola symptoms, and said she looks forward to stepping out her front door “like normal people.”

But the Texas native said she won’t back away from the debate over treatment of health care workers.

“In the past, a quarantine was something that was considered very extreme. I’m concerned about how lightly we’re taking this concept today,” said Hickox, who defied state-ordered quarantine attempts in New Jersey and Maine. “I’m concerned that the wrong people are leading the debate and making the decisions.”

She said the U.S. needs a public education campaign to better explain the virus that has killed nearly 5,000 in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. However, Hickox said she wouldn’t let her experience prevent her from returning to West Africa.

“Something like quarantine is not going to scare me from doing the work that I love,” she told The Associated Press from her home in Fort Kent in northern Maine. “I would return to Sierra Leone in a heartbeat.”

Hickox said she plans to have dinner with her boyfriend to mark the end of the deadly disease’s incubation period, but she’s not sure what kind of reception she’ll get. She has been hailed by some and vilified by others for refusing to be quarantined.

Most people have been supportive, she said, but others have been hateful. She received a letter from one person who said he hoped she would catch Ebola and die.

“We’re still thankful we’ve had a lot of great support in this community but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make me a little bit nervous thinking about people from the other side of the debate and how they might react to me,” Hickox said.

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP