US troops ordered to aid in construction of Ebola treatment centers in Liberia will be subjected to a 21-day quarantine upon their departure from west Africa. That quarantine will take effect in Italy, where local legislators are outraged that the deadly virus may enter their homeland.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the quarantine last week, in an area near Venice in the north of Italy, and it took local political figures little time to protest that American Ebola patients are not their problem. “They shouldn’t have been sent here, they should do their quarantine for Ebola at home,” regional assembly leader Luca Zaia protested, according to a report by Italy’s The Local.
The soldiers are being kept at the San Bortolo hospital in Vicenza, where health professionals have also put together a special unit in case any of the soldiers become symptomatic. They are not expected to as they never came directly into contact with Ebola patients, but as the virus can transmit itself through contact with bodily fluids, it is possible to contract it from said fluids left behind in an area that a patient has inhabited. None of those quarantined in the hospital– Major General Darryl Williams and 11 other soldiers– have shown symptoms, according to Agence France-Presse.
Zaia, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, added that it “would have been more respectful” to Italian citizens to contain the risk of Ebola elsewhere, as it appears that the containment of soldiers who may potentially have Ebola in the area has triggered an increase in phone calls to emergency authorities and other indicia of panic. Other parties simply called for the soldiers to be quarantined in Washington, D.C.
The White House has delivered multiple answers regarding why soldiers are being forced into quarantine when health professional volunteers returning from West Africa are allowed to self-monitor at home. “Well, the military is a different situation, obviously, because they are, first of all, not treating patients,” explained President Barack Obama at a public event this week, adding, “health workers being put into quarantine once they arrive in the U.S. do have direct contact with Ebola patients.” He added that, as soldiers, “they are already, by definition, if they’re in the military, under more circumscribed conditions.” Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed his sentiments, though neither has clarified why Italy was chosen as the halfway house between Africa and home for these soldiers.