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Army Says Troops Coming Back From West Africa Will Face 'Controlled Monitoring'

The U.S. Army announced Monday that troops returning from West African nations facing outbreaks of Ebola will be placed under "controlled monitoring."

"The Army Chief of Staff [Raymond Odierno] has directed a 21-day controlled monitoring period for all redeploying soldiers returning from Operation United Assistance," the Army said in a news release. "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."

Citing a military officer, NPR's Tom Bowman reports that the Joint Chiefs met on Friday afternoon to talk and decided to send the recommendation to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"Odierno did not want to wait," Tom reports. "So he put out the order, and not even Pentagon press staff knew."

This order essentially means that troops will be quarantined. According to NBC News, troops will be "confined to a housing complex with barracks, a dining hall and a gym but no outside access at their home base in Vicenza, Italy."

Tom reports they will have their temperatures checked twice a day by medical personnel and will not have contact with their families.

This, of course, comes just after the White House tried to convince New York and New Jersey to drop their mandatory quarantine of Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey from West Africa but had shown no symptoms of the virus.

"Policies need to be driven by science," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today. "Whatever guidelines that are put in place should not unduly burden health care workers."

The American troops in West Africa have been sent to try to combat the outbreak by, among other things, building medical facilities. None of the troops, however, will have had contact with patients. It appears that troops coming back will be quarantined whether or not they are showing symptoms of Ebola. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said repeatedly that people are only contagious when they are exhibiting symptoms.

Tom says he's being told the White House is not happy about this new Army policy.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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