U.S. troops will be protected while doing their critical work in West Africa—helping the U.S. Agency for International Development stop the deadly Ebola outbreak there—and after they come home, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said in a recent interview.
Speaking Oct. 17 with DoD News, Dr. Jonathan Woodson detailed the Defense Department’s plan for keeping troops safe while they’re deployed in West Africa, getting them home for treatment if a servicemember becomes infected, and making sure their families and communities are safe when all the troops come home.
“We owe them every measure we can take to keep them safe and we are going to do that,” Woodson said.
Upon redeployment, each servicemember will be assessed by medical professionals and actively monitored for 21 days after they return, Woodson said.
Returning troops won’t be quarantined for 21 days—the incubation period from the time of Ebola infection to the appearance of symptoms is two to 21 days—but during that period, they’ll have supervised temperature checks and they'll be directly asked about any symptoms, he said. Ebola symptoms for someone who is very ill include fever, malaise [general discomfort or ‘being out of sorts’], muscle ache, vomiting, diarrhea and collapse or exhaustion.
“The strategy we have for monitoring servicemembers in theater would have us pick up symptoms at the earliest possible time to prevent additional contacts … so the time frame we're talking about, at a maximum, is 12 hours,” Woodson said. “This will protect them, and it will protect the American public upon redeployment.”
“I want everybody to understand that we deeply appreciate what our men and women in uniform do. We have called upon them time and again to perform heroically in a number of circumstances—Iraq, Afghanistan, and now again in a sort of different mission,” Woodson said.
“They are performing a mission that is in the United States' immediate and strategic interest—to keep the larger American population safe,” he added. “So, we thank them for that. And I think we've taken every precaution to minimize their risk.”
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For DoD's press briefing on the Pentagon's response to the Ebola outbreak, click here. ♦