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Military Health System

Ebola

Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genusEbolavirus. There are five identified Ebolavirus species, four of which have caused disease in humans: 

  • Zaire ebolavirus
  • Sudan ebolavirus
  • Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus
  • Bundibugyo ebolavirus.
  • Reston ebolavirus, which has caused disease in nonhuman primates but not in humans.

Ebola is found in several African countries. The first Ebola species was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.

The natural reservoir host of Ebola remains unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is animal-borne with bats being the most likely reservoir. Four of the five subtypes occur in an animal host native to Africa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:

Can my deployed service member interact with family when he or she returns home?

A:

Service members will undergo controlled monitoring for 21 days following their deployment and will not be allowed to leave the designated facility during that period. Following the 21 day period, the Service member is considered to have no risk for carrying the Ebola virus, and will be able return to his or her regular duty station and home. Service members will be free to interact with family members, colleagues, and friends.

Q2:

Can I speak with my service member during the 21-day period?

A:

Absolutely. Service members undergoing controlled monitoring will have access to telephone and internet services and will be able to communicate with family members.

Q3:

What precautions do I need to take if my service member has the disease and recovers?

A:

In the unlikely event that your service member were to contract Ebola, they would be taken to a designated treatment facility for treatment until they fully recover from the virus. Upon full recovery, the service member would have no risk of spreading the disease through physical interaction with family or friends.

Q4:

If my service member is diagnosed with Ebola, will he or she be treated at the controlled monitoring locations?

A:

In the unlikely event that your service member were to contract Ebola, they would be hospitalized immediately. DOD would make arrangements to transfer the individual to one of the three designated civilian medical facilities for treating Ebola cases:  National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD; Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, GA; or the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE, or to one of the approved DOD hospitals that have prepared extensively to manage an Ebola patient.

Q5:

What is DOD doing to ensure my family and I won't be stigmatized in our workplaces, schools, or communities because my service member recently returned from West Africa?

A:

The Department's first priority is to ensure the safety of service members and their families. We are communicating throughout DOD and with our local civilian communities about the low risk that Ebola poses to the American public. DOD installations that have service members deploying in support of Operation United Assistance will be conducting extensive outreach and education campaigns of:

  • the work being undertaken in West Africa,
  • precautions being taken to protect deploying and returning service members,
  • the science regarding how Ebola is transmitted,
  • and the subsequent minimal risk related to deployment.

The MHS has made available educational materials online and will continue to disseminate and update information to local installations and military hospitals and clinics.

Q6:

There is a lot of information about Ebola on the internet. Where do I go for information I can trust?

A:

As with any important subject, especially medical or scientific matters, you should only get your information from reputable sources. For Ebola, these include:

Q7:

What are you doing to protect DOD personnel from contracting Ebola?

A:

We are making every effort to ensure that U.S. personnel on the ground are working in an environment where their personal safety and security are protected. Deployed U.S. personnel contracting Ebola would be treated in the most effective manner possible, including evacuation to the U.S. We are confident that this is a risk we can manage through protective measures in the field as well as screening measures both overseas and here at home.

Q8:

Will DOD personnel be going into hot zones and at risk for contracting Ebola? Will they be in contact with infected individuals?

A:

The Africa Command Surgeon's Office is closely monitoring the situation, which includes reviewing procedures and providing command members information on Ebola. We are not planning for U.S. military personnel to provide direct patient care. In the event there is a requirement for U.S. military personnel to work in areas where there is a risk of contracting Ebola, U.S. military personnel will follow the protection guidelines issued by the CDC, and will be issued appropriate personal protective equipment. As a general matter, Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola. It is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food.

Q9:

What type of pre-deployment medical care are DOD personnel receiving? What type of instruction are they getting to prevent vector-borne infections?

A:

All DOD personnel receive region-specific training before deploying. Personnel are receiving training on Ebola prevention, malaria prevention, other medical threats, and medical readiness requirements. The following is the prescribed list of required immunizations for a deployment to the Africa region:

  • Chickenpox
  • Hepatitis A/Hepatitis B
  • Influenza, Meningococcal
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Polio
  • Pneumococcal (for any specific health issues for anyone older than 65 years of age)
  • Rabies (for veterinary and certain other personnel)
  • Rubella (MMR)
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever
Q10:

Has the Department issued official health guidance to the Services for their units deploying to the affected outbreak areas?

A:

Yes, we have issued pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment training, screening and monitoring guidance for DOD personnel deployed or deploying to West Africa. The policy guidance outlines required medical protocols, including medical threat briefings, deployment ebola monitoring and screening procedures to minimize exposure, risk evaluation, and personnel protective equipment use. 

Q11:

What is considered a risk of exposure? What makes something a high risk versus a moderate risk?

A:

DOD policy defines high exposure risk as a:

  • Needle stick or mucus membrane (e.g., eyes, mouth, etc) exposure to Ebola-infected blood or bodily fluids
  • Direct contact with blood or body fluids of a confirmed Ebola patient without appropriate protect equipment
  • Direct contact with a dead body in a country where an Ebola outbreak is occurring  

DOD policy defines some risk of exposure as:

  • Household-type contact with an Ebola patient
  • Other close contact with an Ebola patient in healthcare facilities or community settings
  • Contact with Ebola patients while not wearing proper protective equipment
  • Direct brief contact with an Ebola patient (e.g., shaking hands)
Q12:

Will service members be screened and quarantined if symtomatic?

A:

Once deployed, all personnel will be evaluated by their unit twice each day for temperature and their exposure to risks. We will have a tiered model for risks based on both symptoms and / or risk exposures. Anyone who is identified as having symptoms will be quickly evaluated by medical personnel.  Medical authorities will make the decision based on a structured set of criteria as to whether the service member can return to duty or should be medically evacuated back to the U.S. Personnel, if determined to have an exposure that represents more than a minimal risk, will be evacuated back to the United States for observation and treatment if required. If someone at risk is moved back to the U.S., they will be quarantined for 21 days at a DOD designated facility to monitor for signs and symptoms of the disease.

Q13:

How will the Department monitor individuals coming back from deployment?

A:

All DOD military personnel will undergo 21 days of controlled monitoring at a specified DOD facility following their return from deployment in support of Operation United Assistance. This monitoring will include twice daily face-to-face interviews to review for symptoms and perform temperature checks. 

Once the 21 days of controlled monitoring are completed, personnel showing no symptoms or signs of infection will be allowed to leave the military facility and return to their duty station.

DOD civilian personnel will have the option to either undergo controlled monitoring at a specified military facility or return home and attend twice-daily in person interviews and temperature checks for the 21 day period following their deployment.

Q14:

Where will returning military members be monitored?

A:

Controlled monitoring areas will be located at the following military installations within the United States and at two locations in Europe.

  • Fort Bliss, El Paso TX
  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Hampton, VA
  • Fort Hood, Killeen, TX
  • Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA
  • U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder, Germany
  • U.S. Army Garrison Caserma Del Din, Vicenza, Italy
Q15:

Why were these facilities selected as controlled monitoring locations?

A:

Selection criteria included proximity to medical facilities capable of treating Ebola; facility resources to isolate a significant number of returning service members and control movement / access; and the personnel resources to conduct twice daily temperature checks, medical screenings.

You also may be interested in...

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction: Post-Deployment Policy for 21-day Controlled Monitoring

Policy

This instruction provides policy and guidance for the Services in the conduct of 21-day controlled monitoring of Service members and volunteering DoD civilian employees returning from the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak area in West Africa.

Ebola Fact Sheet for Families of Deploying Personnel

Fact Sheet
11/4/2014

The President and the Secretary of Defense have called upon the men and women of the US armed forces and other government personnel to provide critical support as part of the international response to the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. This Fact Sheet highlights the actions that are in place prior to, during, and after deployment in order to protect our service members, families and communities.

Recommended Content:

Ebola | Ebola | Public Health

Pre-Deployment, Deployment, and Post-Deployment Training, Screening, and Monitoring Guidance for Department of Defense Personnel Deployed to Ebola Outbreak Areas

Policy

Department of Defense (DoD) personnel (Service members and civilian employees)deployed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined Ebola outbreak areas will complete pre and post-deployment screening and training requirements outlined in this memorandum and supplemented by United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) guidance.

Detecting and Reporting DoD Cases of Ebola Virus Disease Infection

Policy

Guidance as of 17 OCT 2014 from the Department of Defese (AFHSC)for Detecting and Reporting DoD Cases of Ebola Virus Disease Infection

CDC Ebola Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet
10/10/2014

A fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control describing Ebola, transimission, signs and symptoms, risk of exposure, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Recommended Content:

Ebola | Public Health | Public Health
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Last Updated: October 17, 2022
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