3rd Grader Barred From School for Three Weeks after Visiting Country that Doesn’t Have Ebola

A Connecticut school has barred a healthy little girl from classes after a visit to Ebola-free Nigeria.

NYT (“After a Family Trip to Africa, a Connecticut Girl, 7, Is Unwelcome at School“):

The third-grader was not feeling sick. She did not have a fever or any other symptoms of Ebola. Having just completed a 10-day trip to Nigeria, where she was the flower girl at a family wedding, she was eager to get back to class. But officials at her Connecticut elementary school told her she could not come back.

Concerned by her trip to Africa, they said the third-grader, Ikeoluwa Opayemi, would have to stay out of class at Meadowside Elementary School in Milford for 21 days, the maximum known time it can take for symptoms of Ebola to emerge.

“I said, ‘Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ ” her father, Stephen Opayemi, recalled. After all, his daughter had not been exposed to anyone with Ebola. In fact, there are no known Ebola patients in Nigeria, which has been declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization.

[…]

Connecticut’s safeguards go beyond federal recommendations and include the possibility of quarantine for asymptomatic people who meet certain risk factors, including recent travel to a country experiencing an Ebola outbreak, which would not include Nigeria.

According to the Opayemi family’s lawsuit, Dr. Andrew Dennis McBride, Milford’s health director, “acknowledged that his decision was not based on any approved state or federal protocol, was not based on any scientific or medical evidence, and violated the C.D.C., World Health Organization, Connecticut Department of Public Health and U.S. State Department protocols.”

On Wednesday, Dr. McBride’s office said he was not available for comment. In a statement, Elizabeth Feser, Milford’s superintendent of schools, said: “In addressing this situation, at all times, my staff and I proceeded in good faith to respond to this public health issue. We acted in the best interest of all of our students and staff.”

The purpose of public education is to teach the public. The notion that school districts should act irrationally because the public is ignorant is mindboggling.

Beyond that, we simply have to address this notion of local yokels being in charge of these decisions. The power of the state to deprive citizens of their liberty is supposed to require due process of law. Somehow, we’ve come to the point where politicians—and even unelected functionaries—have the ability to confine people, or in this case deny them access to public services, on sheer whim.

FILED UNDER: Health, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    That does not surprise me, in an age when kids are suspended for having a pop tart shaped like a gun, bringing a squirt gun onto a bus, and suspending students who wore shirts that had the US flag to school. Next it will be students who return from Europe trips. Remember that bubonic plague thing a while back – like 1500 ?

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    DAMN those Republicans in Connecticut!

    Um… wait a minute… they’ve got a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, 2 Democratic Senators, 5 Democratic representatives, and Democrats control both Houses of their legislature.

    But I’m not worried. I’m sure SOMEONE here will find a way to blame it on Republicans. Because, after all, this has to be a partisan issue, right? And it has to be one where the progressives are the good guys, and the conservatives are the bad guys?. That’s the narrative, and you can’t harsh the narrative.

    But I do have to say that a little OVERreaction is a refreshing change of pace from the proud UNDERreactions we’ve seen so far…

  3. wr says:

    This is truly shocking. Appalling.

    Because if this little girl is not immediately placed in solitary confinement in a supermax prison immediately, it’s possible that one or more of the conservatives on this forum will experience existential terror at the possibility that someone they will never meet in a state they’ll never visit might somehow threaten their peace of mind.

    Maybe we should just gas her to death. You know, to be safe.

    Because Freedom!

  4. stonetools says:

    This is why Obama deserves muchos kudos for standing up for a science based approach, and not pandering to fear and irrationalism , like numerous politicans and pundits, including sadly, some Democrats.
    Ron Fournier, take note: this is what Presidential leadership is.
    And shame on Connecticut for pandering and violating people’s civil rights.

  5. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Stonetools had already answered that screed. There is no shortage of Democratic tools and assholes. However,there are Democrats who are not tools and assholes, and there is a grave deficit of Republicans who are not tools and assholes.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Actually Milford elected their first Democratic mayor in 22 years in 2011. It’s a very purple locale.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    America has, basically, scared itself to death over Ebola.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: It’s amazing how you can go from zero to a-hole in less than a second… yet still remain a zero.

    But death for the girl? Why, did she deny climate change or something?

  9. beth says:

    Connecticut is also holding that Yale student, who also doesn’t have Ebola, under quarantine at his house with an armed police guard outside. We’ve got some real profiles in courage going on in this country.

  10. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    a-hole

    climate change

    Seems like just yesterday you were complaining about me insulting people, making non-substantitive comments, and going off topic. Ah, it was just yesterday.

    Personally, I am in favor of letting the editorial staff do what policing is necessary, and leaving people to comment as they see fit. That being said, you might want to consider practicing what you preach (and preach, and preach, and…)

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: You’re right, I shouldn’t let louts like wr bait me into responding in kind.

    So, back to the topic at hand: this is obviously an overreaction. But there have also been way too many underreactions. The CDC nurse in Maine, for example. She was exposed to Ebola, and should be quarantined for the recommended 21 days. It’s even more appalling that she’s a health care professional who is rejecting the whole concept of quarantine.

    In one way, this Ebola mess reminds me of terrorism attacks in the US. There haven’t been any major, successful attacks since 9/11. But that isn’t because we’ve been careful; it’s because we’ve been lucky.

    Likewise, that we have had four confirmed cases in the US thus far (the original patient, two nurses who cared for him, and the NY doctor) is not because we’ve been successful. It’s because we’ve been lucky.

    I don’t trust in luck. Because, statistically speaking, in the long term, it tends to balance itself out. And a lot of “good luck” now means “bad luck” later.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But death for the girl? Why, did she deny climate change or something?

    You had to go to Austria? LOL!
    “Professor Richard Parncutt, Musicologist at Graz University in Austria.”
    Was he funded by the Heinz Foundation?

  13. beth says:

    @al-Ameda: And don’t forget the anonymous posters on some blogs! Those are really dangerous.

  14. anjin-san says:

    @al-Ameda:

    For anyone who would like to support Oxfams radical far left agenda of fighting ebola in West Africa, here is a link:

    Oxfam is working to get water to treatment centers, training and equipment to public health teams, and information to families about how to stay safe in the face of this deadly threat.

    http://www.oxfamamerica.org

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Sorry, should have mentioned some others, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Or some others cited in that article, like Talking Points Memo, Climate Progress editor Joe Romm, or NASA’s James Hansen.

    But if your goal is to make me ashamed of actually responding to wr’s idiocy… mission accomplished.

  16. beth says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Except RFK, Jr. didn’t call for any person’s death – he called for revoking corporate charters (certainly within his 1st amendment rights to do). The comments on TPM and CP were just that – anonymous comments. If you’re so horrified by anonymous comments, please don’t ever to Free Republic or Red State – the comments there might just kill you. And James Hansen didn’t call for anyone’s death – he called for trials (which again, might be harsh but certainly are not death).

  17. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Likewise, that we have had four confirmed cases in the US thus far (the original patient, two nurses who cared for him, and the NY doctor) is not because we’ve been successful. It’s because we’ve been lucky.

    It’s because we’ve done almost everything in accordance with what the established medical science recommends (which, by the way, doesn’t include quarantine of non-symptomatic individuals).

    And now, because of people who have a political interest in stoking panic and are spreading all sorts of FUD, we have the utter idiocy that’s the subject of this post–a girl who traveled to a country that’s over a thousand miles from any Ebola outbreak being told she can’t come to school for 21 days. I mean, that’s like telling someone who visited Detroit that they have to quarantine because someone in Dallas died of Ebola. It’s the height of inanity.

  18. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But I do have to say that a little OVERreaction is a refreshing change of pace from the proud UNDERreactions we’ve seen so far…

    So a misguided and pointless reaction against a 7 year old is refreshing? WTF man?

    But there have also been way too many underreactions. The CDC nurse in Maine, for example.

    She is and has been asymptomatic for the entire time, yet she has been quarantined in poor conditions and looks to be quarantined again when her twice daily monitoring would be entirely sufficient to protect the public. How on earth is that an underreaction?

    It’s because we’ve been lucky.

    It’s because ebola is not transmissible until symptoms show and doesn’t become highly transmissible until late when the viral load is high and symptoms are heavy.

    a lot of “good luck” now means “bad luck” later

    That isn’t how statistics works.

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I called it an overreaction. It is one. And the NJ hospital that quarantined CDC nurse Hickox should be ashamed of itself. Their “quarantine” facility was a disgrace. Fortunately, it seems that they are NOT setting the standard for treating potential Ebola victims.

    But here’s a question: can Ebola be transmitted by a sneeze from an infected person?

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: Funny how you managed to omit where I said “Because, statistically speaking, in the long term, it tends to balance itself out.” Why did you drop that — because it ruined your snide point?

    Are you arguing that we should just hope to continue to be lucky instead of being safe? Because you think we can continue to be lucky?

    “Hope is not a method.”

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    No, it’s not luck, genius, it’s the result of having an advanced civilization. Well, mostly advanced, there are still plenty of primitives terrified of every shadow. Fortunately there are enough of the rest of us to keep even the panicky morons safe.

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I don’t trust in luck. Because, statistically speaking, in the long term, it tends to balance itself out. And a lot of “good luck” now means “bad luck” later.

    Math, how does it work???

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But here’s a question: can Ebola be transmitted by a sneeze from an infected person?

    http://www.google.com.

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: No, it’s not luck, genius, it’s the result of having an advanced civilization.

    So, just how did our “having an advanced civilization” help us with the shoe bomber? The underwear bomber? The Times Square bomber?

    We were lucky, moron. In all three cases, our “advanced civilization” did squat to prevent those attacks; what saved us was their incompetence.

    And I’m STILL wondering how the rationale used to push ObamaCare’s mandate — “you might, at some point in the future, pose a financial liability to the rest of us, so you have to do this” — doesn’t apply to “you might, in the next couple of weeks, pose a physical threat to other people, so you have to do this for the next couple of weeks.” Did Jacobson v. Massachusetts get overturned and I missed it?

  25. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rafer Janders: It’s OK to admit you don’t know. The CDC has been rather vague about it.

  26. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yeah! Good point! We were lucky about the underwear bomber so overreaction is a good thing when dealing with Ebola!!

    Jeebus are you actually getting dumber as your life progresses?

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    So, just how did our “having an advanced civilization” help us with the shoe bomber? The underwear bomber? The Times Square bomber?

    Two points:
    (1) Addressing potential problems associated with the Ebola virus is not the same as trying to anticipate where a terrorist might appear and attempt to take action.

    (2) Hypothetically our “advanced civilization” has advanced intelligence capabilities that when coupled with other precautionary actions, might result in apprehending the afore-mentioned terrorists before they can take action. There is an element of uncertainty in this. With Ebola, health and medical officials have much knowledge as to where and how Ebola propagates and they know with much more certainty (than is the case with dealing with random terror) the actions necessary to deal with Ebola.

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: God, you must make the casino owners at Las Vegas very very happy.

    Probability doesn’t work that way, genius. I suggest cracking open a math book.

  29. lounsbury says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    What the bloody f**k are you on about, your bloody country is rapidly becoming the laughing stock of Europe over your pants wetting panic over nothing. And you think there is an under-reaction?

    Get a bloody grip you sad provincial git, you people are acting like little children. And you, you are a cowardly cretin.

  30. lounsbury says:

    And this post on this very site becomes more and more relevant: https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/the-difference-between-the-american-and-british-reactions-to-ebola/

    Literally it is just the USA that has itself into an utterly ridiculous lather about no real risk at all.

    Belgium, with hundreds of thousands of citizens with DRC origin citizens (ground zero of Ebola), utterly chill.

    UK, with massive W. Africa connections, chill.

    France, with similar W. Africa exposure, chill.

    USA, Bloody chicken little cowardice.

    No wonder you idiots went loony after 9/11, you’ve got no bloody perspective at all.

  31. JohnMcC says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    healthmap.org/site/diseasedaily/article/pigs-monkeys-ebola-goes-airborne-112112

    edit: I see I fouled up the link. You get the idea.

  32. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JohnMcC:

    From the article:

    What do these findings mean? First and foremost, Ebola is not suddenly an airborne disease. As expert commentators at ProMED stated, the experiments “demonstrate the susceptibility of pigs to Zaire Ebolavirus and that the virus from infected pigs can be transmitted to macaques under experimental conditions… they fall short of establishing that this is a normal route of transmission in the natural environment.” Furthermore, because human Ebola outbreaks have historically been locally contained, it is unlikely that Ebola can spread between humans via airborne transmission. – See more at: http://healthmap.org/site/diseasedaily/article/pigs-monkeys-ebola-goes-airborne-112112#sthash.mw7KYp3W.dpuf

  33. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    You clearly don’t understand statistics and I notice you did not respond to the more direct points.
    1) How exactly is irrational fear pushing people to punish a 7 year old for nothing refreshing?
    2) How are two quarantines of a nonsymptomatic healthcare worker an underreaction?
    3) The luck is that ebola is not transmissible until symptoms show and is not highly transmissible until symptoms are severe.
    “Why did you drop that those — because it ruined your snide point?”

  34. JohnMcC says:

    Dr Joyner exposes the problem with his statement that ‘The purpose of public education is to teach the public. The notion that school districts should act irrationally because the public is ignorant is mindboggling.’

    Actually, the purpose of education is to replicate our culture. Ignorant culture = ignorant education.

  35. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    We were lucky, moron. In all three cases, our “advanced civilization” did squat to prevent those attacks; what saved us was their incompetence.

    Their incompetence. Exactly. We did not have attacks planned by competent terrorists here and somehow luck out. The attacks were doomed because idiots tried to execute them, not because we got lucky. And please, no pretzel logic arguments about how we were lucky that they were incompetent.

    I note that your endless stream of name calling and personal insults goes on. Exactly what you complain about in others. Physician, heal thyself.

  36. KM says:

    Beyond that, we simply have to address this notion of local yokels being in charge of these decisions.

    Ah James, what a wonderful world that would be! Think of it, actual intelligence and reason being used to make decisions instead of bias and self-serving fear. We will never live in this paradise, my friend, but it’s a lovely dream nonetheless.

  37. JohnMcC says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Thank you, sir! Actually, I did read the entire article. The point of the comment was in response to a link from our friend and co-conspirator Mr Johnson to the google homepage as a response to one of our troll’s question: ‘…can ebola be transmitted by a sneeze…?’

    Google is wonderful. It does not provide every answer and using it takes us to lots of learning that doesn’t always answer simple questions.

    In fact, that exact question was a topic at the nurses’ station where I was working the other night. Our conversation included an Infectious Disease doc. No one could understand how an infected individual could become infectious instantly upon developing a fever but was not infectious in the hours before the fever. Nothing goes from 0 to 60 in zero time. (At least nothing biological does; I won’t argue about physics.)

    Jenos is a despicable troll but in this case he asks the same question that Dr Bruce Beutler who was awarded the 2011 Nobel in Medicine does. Assuming a small viral load in serum, can droplets carry a sufficient viral mass to cause infection?

    Edit: None of this has anything to do with the subject of the Original Post; little Miss Opayemi’s school is being incredibly stupid to prevent her attendance.

  38. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Well stated.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @lounsbury: Hey, the “keep calm and carry on” group happens to be closest to those from a) New England, b) Minnesota. The rest of us Americans seem to have a tendency to panic, scream, and run in tiny little circles. Cool rationality just ain’t us, for some reason.

    Which is why I am admiring President Obama more and more. He’s not allowing himself to be spooked by cable news and the talk-show hosts. Or the excited statements of certain people.

  40. @michael reynolds:

    Fortunately there are enough of the rest of us to keep even the panicky morons safe.

    Look who’s talking Mr. “We need to ban encryption in case my daughter is kidnapped”.

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnMcC: Except that the viral load infectability also depends heavily on the health status of the person who catches it. I’ve seen estimates all the way down to only 10 viruses being still sufficient to cause infection, but I really wonder whether that’s for anyone in reasonable health who isn’t aged or with other problems.

    Another thought that comes to mind–considering how prevalent AIDS and other diseases are in Africa, I would think that people who already suffer from an impacted immune system would be the first to catch Ebola.

  42. @grumpy realist:

    I’ve seen estimates all the way down to only 10 viruses being still sufficient to cause infection

    I call bullshit! Show me a legitimate study anywhere where someone was counting out individual ebola viruses to see how many it takes to cause an infection.

  43. Neil Hudelson says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Sierra Leone and Liberia–the two hardest hit countries–have low HIV rates (relatively speaking). The third hardest hit country–Guinea–has moderate infection rates.

    Nigeria, which quickly shut down Ebola, has one of the highest HIV infection rates.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=35&r=af&l=en

  44. @Neil Hudelson:

    It’s going to be very weird if it turns out HIV makes you immune to Ebola.

  45. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    ObamaCare’s mandate — “you might, at some point in the future, pose a financial liability to the rest of us, so you have to do this”

    Total crap. People with no health insurance absolutely, certainly pose a financial liability to the rest of us. Every single day of the year, year in and year out. There is no “might” about it, and there is an ocean of data which documents this.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Nigeria did a magnificent job of contact tracing, which is why they were able to get a handle on the problem quickly.

    I think that, everything else being equal, someone with AIDS is more likely to catch Ebola upon exposure than someone who doesn’t have it. I thought that was the major problem with AIDS–people don’t die of AIDS itself; they die of all the infections they can’t throw off.

  47. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I’ll let someone else judge this question, but it is racist of me to wonder if in the case of a girl named Jane Smith who had gone an a safari to Nigeria that she would be too busy modeling her leopard-skin hoodie at show-n-tells all over the school to be suspended?

  48. Mikey says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Given the treatment the lily-white Kaci Hickcox has gotten, I wouldn’t assume Jane Smith would be treated any differently than Ikeoluwa Opayemi.

  49. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: Well, since you are a wonderfully serious person and I’ve enjoyed your comments, I’ll try to answer the question you ask ‘do people die of AIDS or of the 2dy infections that compromised immune systems allow?’ From the perspective of one RN who went thru the whole thing. They didn’t even have a name for the thing until the year after I graduated from RNschool.

    No doubt many, many people in those early years died of 2dy infections and there being low visibility for the disease their deaths were attributed to other specific disease entities. But there was another group that lived long enough to get some very strange diseases. I remember having to read up on Cryptococca which my patient had, and finding damn near nothing about it in the Hospital Library. These patient’s strange diagnosis became proxies for AIDS.

    One of the characteristic infections was PneumoCystic Pneumonia (PCP) and it became a fairly frequent reason for admissions to my ICU as the poor lads ended their days on ventilators.

    Nowadays, less reluctance to call someone’s death due to pneumonia an AIDS death, I bet.

  50. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnMcC: Thank you! But, based on your experience, deaths associated with AIDS are mainly due to infections, right? It’s not like the body itself just gives up and quits without being infected with something.

  51. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: Based on my experience, that is correct. Certain of those infections became so characteristic of immune suppression that they became virtually the same diagnosis in any practical sense.

    Wouldn’t want to end this public conversation without a short nod to the incredible difference that the Anti-Viral meds have made. Looking back, wow!