— -- The Army has decided that troops returning from deployments to Liberia should be quarantined so they can be monitored for possible exposure to the Ebola virus and a general was among the first people affected.
The order immediately affected up to a dozen soldiers who returned to their home base in Italy this weekend, including Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the former top U.S. commander in Liberia.
"Out of an abundance of caution the Army directed a small number of personnel, about a dozen, that recently returned to Italy to be monitored in a separate location at their home station of Vicenza," Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said today. "None of these individuals have shown any symptoms of exposure."
The Army later released a statement confirming that the decision was made by Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff.
"The Army Chief of Staff has directed a 21-day controlled monitoring period for all redeploying soldiers returning from Operation United Assistance," the statement said. "He has done this out of caution to ensure soldiers, family members and their surrounding communities are confident that we are taking all steps necessary to protect their health."
Williams transferred command of Operation Unified Assistance on Saturday to Major General Gary Volesky, who commands the 101st Airborne Division. Williams and his staff returned to his command of U.S. Army Africa which is based in Vicenza, Italy. The order will also apply to several dozen more Army personnel returning to Vicenza later in the week.
Warren said that the decision was made by the Department of the Army and that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is aware of their decision.
There are 882 military personnel assigned to Operation Unified Assistance in Liberia and Senegal. They are being sent mainly to build Ebola treatment units and provide the infrastructure needed for additional treatment. They will not be providing health care to Ebola patients and will have minimal contacts with the general population.
Warren said there was no one incident that triggered the Army's decision as the personnel in question did not have direct contact with Ebola patients. A Defense official said the Army made it's decision over the weekend.
Ebola symptoms include fever, exhaustion, muscle ache, vomiting and diarrhea.
According to the DOD policy returning troops who have been exposed to the virus will be medically evacuated to the U.S. for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta or the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland