US troops in isolation in Italy after stint in Ebola-hit West Africa

Soldiers go through protective suit training prior to their unit's deployment to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance, the US military's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Pentagon announced Oct 27, 2014 that all US troop
Soldiers go through protective suit training prior to their unit's deployment to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance, the US military's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Pentagon announced Oct 27, 2014 that all US troops returning from West Africa are being placed under isolation at a base in Italy as a precaution to prevent the potential spread of the Ebola virus. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US troops returning from West Africa are being placed under isolation at a base in Italy as a precaution to prevent the potential spread of the Ebola virus, the Pentagon said on Monday.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the army directed a small number of personnel, about a dozen, that recently returned to Italy, to be monitored in a separate location at their home station of Vicenza," spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

But he added: "None of these individuals have shown any symptoms of exposure."

Major General Darryl Williams, who stepped down on Saturday as head of the military mission in Liberia helping to fight the Ebola outbreak, and 11 members of his staff, were assigned to a separate location at the base in Italy and were being monitored by a medical team, Warren said.

The decision was taken by the US Army, he explained.

Dozens of other soldiers due to fly back from Liberia and Senegal also will be placed under isolation and subject to "enhanced monitoring" for a period of 21 days, Warren said. He insisted the move did not amount to a "quarantine" though could not explain how it was different.

There are now 700 US troops in West Africa, including nearly 600 in Liberia and 100 in Senegal. The force is due to grow to at least 3,200 troops in coming weeks and possibly as large as 3,900.

The US military team has set up mobile labs to test for the virus, built a 25-bed hospital for health workers and is constructing Ebola treatment units.

West Africa is the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak that has claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people.