US Army Quarantining Soldiers After Ebola Response Missions

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

The top U.S. Army commander in Africa has quarantined himself and 10 other soldiers who returned to an Italian Army base after building treatment facilities in Ebola-affected countries.

The Army has isolated about a dozen soldiers who returned to Vicenza, Italy this past weekend. About 4,000 soldiers are expected to work in West Africa building treatment centers as part of the White House’s effort to combat the Ebola outbreak.

“We are billeted in a separate area [on the base,]” Major General Darryl Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa, told Reuters Monday. “There’s no contact with the general population or with family. No one will be walking around Vicenza.”

It’s an even more extreme move than several states’ controversial quarantines for health workers that are returning from taking care of Ebola patients in West Africa. Army personnel are not interacting with Ebola patients, but are building treatment facilities for other health professionals.

“Our food is dropped off and then we eat and throw it away. Nobody else touches it,” Williams said, describing the soldiers’ efforts to avoid others having contact with anything that could spread Ebola unawares. “There’s anxiety out there and we want to take care of our soldiers and their families.”

The White House stressed on Friday that Williams made a personal decision to quarantine the workers and that it is not official Department of Defense policy to do so — because there isn’t a policy on it at all.

“The DoD has not issued a policy related to their workers who have spent time in West Africa,” Earnest said Monday. “There was a decision made by a particular commander.”

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