U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that he had approved a recommendation from a top general to quarantine all troops returning from Ebola-hit countries for 21 days, before allowing them to return home.
The measure includes to all personnel leaving the region, however Hagel said the policy will be reviewed within 45 days.The Pentagon's decision creates a separate set of rules for military than those established for civilians and health care workers. President Obama has argued that volunteer health workers returning from West Africa should not be quarantined and asked all states to follow those measure.
"We can't hermetically seal ourselves off," Obama said recently during a meeting with health care workers at the White House, though he also acknowledged that the United States was not invulnerable to the Ebola virus.
But Hagel responded saying, "this is also a policy that was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this."
Meanwhile, a nurse who cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, Kaci Hickox, defied Maine officials on Thursday morning, leaving her house for a short bike ride and setting up a legal fight over the 21-day quarantine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the number of new reported Ebola cases in Liberia are beginning to drop. Approximately 4,900 people have died from the virus so far.
The Ebola virus is a form of hemorrhagic fever with immediate symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding, and it remains one of the world's most virulent diseases. It spreads through direct contact with human fluids and it can also be transmitted through the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.