Here’s a surprising fact about Kaci Hickox: Before she became the poster woman for Ebola hysteria across the United States, she had hoped to land a job as an epidemiologist for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s a not-so-surprising update: Hickox no longer wants the job.

“I would not work for the state health department here. Sorry,” Hickox said during a visit, along with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, to the Portland Press Herald on Monday. “And they probably would not hire me.”

Which, believe it or not, is our loss.

With the Maine CDC currently running on fumes – no state epidemiologist, no deputy epidemiologist, no hepatitis coordinator and more than a quarter of the state’s 50 public health nurse positions vacant – Hickox is far more qualified to run the state’s infectious-disease unit than CDC Director (and acting state epidemiologist) Dr. Sheila Pinette.

Pinette, an internist, had no public health experience whatsoever before she was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage back in 2011.

Hickox, on the other hand, has a master’s degree in public health and nursing from Johns Hopkins University, two years of training as an epidemiology intelligence officer with the U.S. CDC, and more on-the-ground experience dealing with the deadly Ebola virus than anyone else in the state she still calls home.

That’s right. Nurse Hickox is still here. And for the time being, she’s staying put.

“I don’t have a job yet,” said Hickox. “I’m still searching.”

It’s been eight days since Hickox’s battle of wills with the LePage administration – and before that, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – ended quietly with the expiration of a court order suggesting (but not requiring) that she keep a low profile at her and Wilbur’s rented home in Fort Kent. The 21-day period since Hickox’s last exposure to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone ended Nov. 10, vindicating her claim since Day One that she was not sick and thus should not be treated like a modern-day leper.

In recent days, Hickox and Wilbur have moved out of Fort Kent and in with relatives in Freeport. Wilbur, who was enrolled in a nursing program at the University of Maine at Fort Kent before officials there declared him persona non grata as long as Hickox was in isolation, now hopes to complete his nursing degree at the University of Southern Maine.

“We’re trying to find a place to live around Portland,” said Wilbur, adding with a smile, “You know anyone?”

So ends, we can only hope, a saga that never should have become a global news story in the first place.

Less than a month ago, an unknown Hickox arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport after a four-week stint supervising the Bandajuma Case Management Center in Bo, Sierra Leone.

One minute, an airport worker with a forehead scanner was mistaking her slightly elevated skin temperature for an Ebola-induced fever. The next, Hickox was in an isolation tent outside a New Jersey hospital while Christie went about rebranding her as Public Health Enemy No. 1.

Never mind that she wasn’t even sick. Christie had a constituency to inflame.

When New Jersey finally bade Hickox good riddance three days later, it was Maine’s turn.

First, the LePage administration announced that Hickox had agreed to a voluntary 21-day quarantine. She had agreed to no such thing.

Next, the state went to court to force her to stay inside until any risk of Ebola subsided. Chief District Court Judge Charles LaVerdiere, noting that Hickox had already tested negative for the disease, put an end to that nonsense.

Meanwhile, UMaine-Fort Kent tossed Wilbur into the public cauldron by ordering him to stay away from campus until Hickox’s three-week waiting period was over. With good reason, Wilbur never went back.

So what have they learned from their trial by TV lights?

For starters, beware of the flash point between politics and fear.

Hickox understands the fear part – long before she became a household word, most Americans were painfully aware of the Ebola crisis unfolding in West Africa.

But the politics caught her off guard.

“I truly didn’t expect people to start treating asymptomatic health care workers the way I was treated,” Hickox said. “I think it was largely linked to politics. … There was this unfortunate timing right during the midterm elections and politicians decided to use this to gain some votes.”

Another lesson: Ignore those people who, while they think they know her, haven’t a clue.

One person sent Hickox a letter that said, “I hope you get Ebola and die!”

A mother, surrounded by her young children inside a thrift store, got in Hickox’s face and told her: “I don’t like your attitude. I have six kids and you need to be more caring and cautious.”

To which Hickox calmly replied: “You have a right to your opinion, but I was never sick. I never put anyone in danger. Have a good day.”

Then there are the countless emails too nasty to be printed here. Many contained vulgar references to the female anatomy – proof positive of the treatment awaiting women in this society who won’t, as the governor from New Jersey is fond of saying, “sit down and shut up.”

Other critics have alleged that Hickox is a master of self-promotion who plans to somehow get rich off this nightmare.

Sorry to burst that bubble, folks, but Hickox just turned down one media outlet’s generous offer to pay her for an interview and document her and Wilbur’s move south. Beyond the modest payment she received from The Guardian this week for an op-ed titled “Stop Calling me the ‘Ebola Nurse” (because, you know, she never had Ebola), her income since returning from West Africa has been zero.

Still, there have been bright spots.

When Hickox and Wilbur stopped into Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport the other day, several patrons approached to shake their hands and wish them well. And on the eve of their departure from Fort Kent last week, friends, neighbors and supporters threw them a going-away pizza party.

Hickox hopes eventually to return to West Africa – or some other corner of the world where basic health care is a matter of life and death – because the work “gives me so much more than I can give it.”

For now, though, she and Wilbur have a life to resume.

Any parting thoughts?

“I think that with time, the American population can learn to understand (Ebola) and show compassion both to the people who have the disease in West Africa and to returning health care workers,” said Hickox.

Her boyfriend had something more practical in mind – especially for those health care heroes still in transit.

Deadpanned Wilbur, “Don’t fly into Newark.”

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