American soldiers who returned from Liberia are being isolated in Italy over worries about spreading the Ebola virus, it emerged Monday.
A small group of U.S. soldiers are currently isolated and being monitored in Vicenza, Italy, the Pentagon confirmed. The group reportedly includes Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, who was commanding the Army in Africa but recently turned over his duties to the 101st Airborne Division. Officials said the troops would be subject to “controlled monitoring” for 21 days, but that it was not a “quarantine.”
The soldiers were apparently met by Italian national police officers in hazmat suits, according to CBS News, which first reported the measures. A 25-bed hospital being built by the U.S. in the capital, Monrovia, is expected to be fully operational in early November.
“The Department of Defense (DoD) continues to address the precise nature of the monitoring that will take place for DoD personnel returning from operation United Assistance,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Army directed a small number of military personnel (about a dozen) that recently returned to Italy to be monitored in a separate location, at their home station (Vincenza). There has been no decision to implement this force wide and any such decision would be made by the Secretary of Defense.”
The Pentagon says none of the individuals have shown any symptoms of exposure.
The cautionary measures, which could yet extend to the hundreds more troops who are aiding the fight against the virus, come as a number of countries sort out the best practices for monitoring health care workers returning from Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia. The three hardest-hit countries of the Ebola outbreak have seen about 10,100 people sickened, including more than 4,900 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
In recent days, New York and New Jersey have implemented some form of a mandatory 21-day quarantine for returning medical professionals, going back and forth on the severity, following New York City’s first case of Ebola in a health worker who returned from Guinea.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that nurse Kaci Hickox, who was confined to a tent at a New Jersey hospital despite not having symptoms and a negative test for the virus, would be allowed to finish out her isolation at home in Maine. Christie has been heavily criticized for the nurse’s treatment.