According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak is “the biggest and most complex . . . in history,” and in August, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Following news last week that New Jersey and New York each announced Ebola exposure and quarantine measures, on Monday, the CDC published updated interim guidance for the monitoring and movement of persons with potential exposure to the Ebola virus (“Guidance”). According to the CDC, the Guidance is updated to include the addition of the following:
- A “low (but not zero) risk” category;
- A “no identifiable risk” category;
- Modifications to the recommended public health actions in each of the high risk, some risk and low (but not zero) risk categories; and
- Recommendations for specific groups and settings (i.e., healthcare workers providing care to Ebola patients in U.S. facilities and healthcare workers providing care to Ebola patients in countries with widespread transmission).
The CDC further explained that the Guidance provides a “framework for determining appropriate public health actions based on risk factors and clinical presentation.” The Guidance also includes a reference chart outlining recommended public health actions based on exposure category. The CDC correctly noted that primary jurisdiction to address this matter remains with state and local authorities. Under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, states have police power to protect the health (i.e., public health/infectious disease control, including quarantine) of its population.
As Ebola remains a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” it is likely that additional and/or updated Ebola guidance will be published by the CDC, as well as orders issued by other states and local authorities.