The debate began in earnest last week, when governors of some states went further than federal health officials and ordered three-week quarantines for health workers returning from West Africa.
The epicenter of the controversy is a modest house in Fort Kent, Maine, where a nurse, Kaci Hickox, is defying demands from Gov. Paul LePage that she severely restrict her travel, even though she has said that she tested negative for Ebola and is symptom-free.
It's not just a matter of inconvenience for the health workers volunteering for duty in Africa. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the hardest-hit countries, need 5,000 more people to fight the epidemic, the World Bank said this week.
And health officials stress that if the virus is allowed to rage further over there, where almost thousands of Ebola victims have already died, it increases the likelihood that additional cases will show up in the United States.
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At International Medical Corps, 18 to 20 of the 110 volunteers who had pledged to go to Africa are now rethinking their plans, said Rabih Torbay, the organization's senior vice president for international operations.
The organization asks for six weeks of volunteers' time—two for training and four for deployment. Quarantines raise the prospect of three more weeks away from their regular jobs at hospitals, practices and universities, and from their families.
In addition, despite pleas that returning health workers be treated as heroes, authorities have expressed concern about mistreatment and stigma. A Maine police chief has even mentioned death threats on social media against the nurse there.
"They don't want to lose patients," Torbay said. "They don't want to lose their jobs."
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There is little he can do to address those concerns. And there are no guarantees about what the rules will be two months from now. If further Ebola cases are detected in the United States, more states could tighten restrictions on returning doctors and nurses.
"It's definitely emotionally hindering people," said George Salloum, vice president of finance and operations for SIM USA, a Christian aid organization that has rotated workers into and out of the Ebola countries.
So far, he said, no one has reversed a decision to go. But volunteers, from doctors and nurses to the construction workers who are helping build Ebola treatment units, are concerned about how the climate in the United States may change.
"Hopefully smarter minds will come to the front," he said.