Texas soldier back from Ebola duty found dead
24-year-old GI returned from Liberia humanitarian work a week ago; initial Ebola tests negative
By Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News
KILLEEN, Texas — A Fort Hood soldier who had returned last week from West Africa, where U.S. troops have been working to help stop the spread of Ebola, was found dead outside his home Tuesday, but initial tests showed he did not have the virus.
The GI, who was 24 years old but not identified, fell face-down in front of his Killeen residence a few miles from the post. There was no evidence he was a victim of suicide or foul play. He had been among 87 soldiers quarantined on Jan. 7 after returning from Liberia, but was allowed to reunite with his family after being granted emergency leave.
The Army said the soldier was required to report his medical information twice a day and that he did not appear to have Ebola. Military medical officials confirmed Tuesday that the first tests were negative. A more comprehensive examination followed to rule out Ebola, and negative results for that testing were confirmed Tuesday night.
“At this point in time, there is no indication the Ebola virus was involved here,” Army spokesman Don Peters said before the results excluding Ebola were released.
More than 450 soldiers from the post’s 36th Engineer Brigade were sent to West Africa last October, with another 50 joining them later in the humanitarian mission in Liberia. They were sent to set up facilities and were not supposed to be exposed to patients, the Army said last year.
The first group began to return last week and were placed in a facility called the Controlled Monitoring Area Site for a 21-day isolation period.
The Army would not say if the soldier who died was an officer or enlistee. But Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said he was allowed to leave the monitoring area under emergency leave soon after arriving home.
One other soldier, who was granted convalescent leave, was allowed to break off from the 87-soldier group. Most were from Fort Hood; seven were from Fort Carson.
The Centers for Disease Control and Texas Department of State Health Services were notified of the soldier’s death, but neither organization sent anyone to Killeen.
Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said his office was told of the incident, and that State Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey was monitoring the situation.
A passer-by saw the soldier motionless outside the quadplex Tuesday morning and called police. Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke ruled him dead 20 minutes later, but did not list a cause and was unaware the soldier had been to Liberia.
Killeen Police Department spokeswoman Carroll Smith said a hazardous materials team was sent out “because we did not know his cause of death.”
The Ebola outbreak last year, which saw the first Ebola death in the United States, triggered a humanitarian assistance operation led by the Army. The engineers from Fort Hood were charged with helping build 17 field hospitals and mobile living quarters for medical workers.
There were no other reports of illness among the soldiers now in sixth day of their quarantine at Fort Hood.
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