WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Friday it has designated five military bases inside the U.S. and two in Europe as quarantine areas for troops returning from the Ebola-response mission in West Africa.
Servicemembers will be isolated for 21 days at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas; and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia to check for symptoms of the deadly virus, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said. Army garrisons in Baumholder, Germany, and Vicenza, Italy, will also be quarantine sites.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the three-week quarantines late last month for troops who spend time on the ground as part of the military’s Operation United Assistance, which is supporting U.S. humanitarian aid efforts in hard-hit East Africa countries where nearly 5,000 have died.
Kirby said the quarantine sites have facilities that can offer twice daily medical checks for the returning troops and were named as the military fine-tunes its response to the virus, which began in September.
Plans finalized Friday allow quarantine exemptions for servicemembers who travel through Africa briefly and have limited contact with people there, such as staff traveling with senior officials who are only there for a day or two, according to The Associated Press.
Under the new plans, civilians in the fight against Ebola will now be able to get medical treatment on military bases and free treatment from hospitals in the United States, Kirby said.
Defense Department personnel returning to Germany from Ebola-related missions in West Africa will first be screened upon touching down at Ramstein Airbase, according to the Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
Anyone showing symptoms that could potentially be related to Ebola, to include a fever equal to or greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, will be transferred to a secure facility at nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for additional testing, the 21st TSC stated.
Otherwise, troops not showing symptoms will spend the 21-day controlled monitoring period at one of four barracks-style buildings on Smith Barracks in Baumholder.
Use of Smith Barracks, however, is contingent upon host nation approval, the command said in a news release.
“The U.S. government is coordinating these measures with host nation officials,” the 21st TSC stated in a release.
More than 1,900 Defense Department personnel are deployed to Africa, with the majority in Liberia and small contingent in Senegal, and that number could climb to 4,000.
The military’s newly built Monrovia Medical Unit in Liberia was set to open Saturday and will care for doctors and other health care workers fighting the dangerous disease. The U.S. hopes the 25-bed facility will encourage and reassure medical assistance.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has said the military mission will probably last 18 months, and feature six-month rotations for military personnel.
The epidemic is the largest outbreak in history and cases have appeared in the United States for the first time. The World Health Organization released new figures Friday showing the number of Ebola cases climbed to 13,268 with 4,960 reported deaths.
The military also announced Friday that it will add another 30 personnel to its rapid-response team created last month to help U.S. civilian health care providers in the event of more domestic Ebola cases. They begin training in Texas on Nov. 17 and will soon join the existing 30-person team, Kirby said.
Stars and Stripes reporter John Vandiver contributed to this report