Air Force major at Fort Bliss tests negative for Ebola
By CHRIS CARROLL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 20, 2014
WASHINGTON — An Air Force major who returned sick from an operation to fight an Ebola outbreak in West Africa has tested negative for the virus, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The officer arrived Tuesday at Fort Bliss, Texas, on a flight from Liberia along with nearly 70 other troops and was immediately placed under observation at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at the installation. Once his Ebola test came back negative, he joined the other troops in 21 days of quarantine mandated by Defense Department policy.
Officials had said he had appeared sick in flight and exhibited symptoms of a stomach virus or food poisoning, but did not have an elevated temperature, considered a telling symptom of Ebola.
“I can’t get into the specifics because of privacy, but I can tell you that it’s an illness other than Ebola, and eminently treatable, which does not preclude him from joining the rest of his cohorts,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby also fielded a question about a complaint by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, who, according to a New York Times report, complained that U.S. military helicopter crews were ordered not to transport Ebola patients within Liberia or carry blood samples.
Kirby said troops have not been trained to deal directly with patients, and carrying them or their blood would require aircraft decontamination and other steps beyond the scope of their current assignments.
“It’s not part of the mission, and there’s a resource allocation component as well as a safety component,” he said.
Military officials have stressed since the beginning of Operation United Assistance that U.S. troops would help with command and control, logistics and engineering, but would not deal directly with Ebola sufferers. Nearly 2,400 servicemembers are currently deployed to Liberia, one of the countries enduring a record outbreak of the disease that has killed more than 5,000 people.