A Texas community is on edge Tuesday after a soldier who recently returned from fighting Ebola in West Africa was found dead outside his home. The name of the soldier has not yet been released, but reports say he was among a group of 87 soldiers from the Central Texas postÂ who returned to Texas on Jan. 7Â after spending time in West Africa on a mission to help contain the Ebola virus.
Fears are rising because there were no signs that the victim took his own life or was a victim of violence.Â Military medical officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the first tests for the virus were negative, but added that a more comprehensive examination would be done to rule out Ebola.Â Tyler Broadway, a Fort Hood spokesman, explained that the rest of the troops are still in isolation at North Fort Hood. This soldier was allowed to visit with family under an emergency leave exception.
Emergency leave from the post-deployment quarantine is covered by the Nov. 14 Joint Chiefs instruction outlining the policy, Troops can be granted leave in the aftermath of the death of an immediate family member; to care for a sick or dying family member; or if “failure to return home places a severe or unusual hardship on the service member or their immediate family.” Those taking the leave must be cleared by a medical professional, the guidance states.
â€œHe was allowed to leave, but he had to self-monitor himself and send those results in twice a day,” said Broadway.
Army spokesman Don Peters said no soldier has contracted the Ebola virus.
“At this point in time there is no indication the Ebola virus was involved here, but we are conducting medical tests to ensure there is no threat to the community,” he said. “So it would be way premature right now to start speculating on what may be until those medical tests are done.â€
The soldier was among a group of Army engineers sent to West Africa last fall to help set up 17 field hospitals, some in remote areas, and mobile living quarters for medical workers. The goal was to help contain the Ebola virus in the West African region.
About 500 Fort Hood soldiers were deployed, with an equal number of troops from Fort Bliss who were airlifting equipment for the humanitarian mission.
Police blocked off the area around the Cantabrian Drive apartment building where the soldier was found Tuesday morning, as a team in hazmat suits inspected the area. The apartment, where the soldier stayed during his off-post, is about three miles from Fort Hood.