Healthcare workers treating Ebola patients should be commended--not treated as untouchables

As a former Physician Assistant who provided medical treatment to AIDS victims in Los Angeles in the 1980s, I have seen firsthand the danger when hysteria overruns science. We should celebrate and not punish healthcare professionals like Kaci Hickox and all the brave American public health workers who have traveled to the countries most impacted by the Ebola outbreak to provide essential health services.

One of America's most exceptional traditions is our healthcare workers going to areas across the globe that are the most in need and providing medical care. It is perhaps the greatest example of American courage. As a nurse, Ms. Hickox showed compassion for her fellow humans when she traveled to West Africa to treat Ebola patients. Now back in the United States, she is showing no symptoms of the disease, and she has tested negative for Ebola not once--but twice. We should embrace her --not treat her as a prisoner and an untouchable--forcing her into a quarantine for three days against her will and now insisting that she stay in her home.

I am very disappointed in states--including California--that are issuing quarantine orders that run afoul of science. California's Department of Public Health's order yesterday that anyone arriving in California from an Ebola-affected area and who has had personal contact with a person infected with the deadly virus will be quarantined for 21 days is unwarranted and unworkable unless we violate Americans' constitutional rights. These orders will only prevent qualified health care workers from traveling to the impacted countries--making it even more difficult to end the Ebola epidemic at its source. In addition, these orders could also prevent people from seeking medical attention because they may fear the hysteria that could surround them.

When Congress returns after the elections next week we will have a choice. We can either follow science and provide the three nations in West Africa with resources and personnel to finally end this outbreak at the source, or we can give in to our irrational fears, play into the hysteria, and go down the path of travel bans and quarantines.

As American leaders, we are called to follow our better angels, not play into fear, and support nurses like Kaci Hickox and provide assistance and encouragement to our brave healthcare personnel who are doing the Lord's work in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Congresswoman Karen Bass is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.