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Marine Quarantined at Home as Ebola Precaution

A hazmat worker clean outside the apartment building of a hospital worker, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Dallas. (LM Otero/AP Photo)
A hazmat worker clean outside the apartment building of a hospital worker, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Dallas. (LM Otero/AP Photo)

A Marine who was on a flight with a Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola has quarantined himself at his Texas home as a precaution, a Defense Department official said Thursday.

The official did not identify the active duty Marine. He only said the Marine was assigned to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Base, Texas. Military Times  first reported the quarantine.

The Marine was showing no signs of the virus but quarantined himself at home for 21 days on advice of the military. The Texas case was believed to be the first involving a service member and a potential diagnosis of Ebola.

The Marine traveled Monday night on Frontier Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. Nurse Amber Vinson, who later tested positive for Ebola, also was aboard the flight.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control, said Wednesday that the possibility of anyone aboard the Frontier flight contracting Ebola was "extremely low."

Vinson was the second nurse from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to be diagnosed with Ebola. Nina Pham, also a nurse at the hospital, had previously been infected with Ebola.

Both nurses had treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who came to the U.S. from Liberia last month. Duncan died of Ebola on Oct. 8.

The report of the Marine quarantining himself came as the current commander of U.S. troops deployed to West Africa to contain the virus told a Pentagon news briefing that the military has yet to identify hospitals where troops would be taken if they were infected with Ebola.

"Not to my knowledge," Army Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams said when asked if any hospitals had been designated to accept members of the military for Ebola treatment.

"Landstuhl would probably be activated," Williams said of the major military medical facility in Germany, but he added that he was speculating.

About 530 troops have deployed thus far to West Africa – more than 400 to Liberia and about 100 to Senegal – and the military has committed to sending up to 4,000 troops to contain the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.

More than 4,500 have died of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and the number of Ebola cases has topped 11,000.

Hundreds of troops from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were expected to arrive in Liberia late next week with the division commander, Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, said Williams, who spoke in an audio briefing from the Pentagon.

After about a week on the ground, Volesky will take command of the Ebola effort and Williams said he will return to his command of U.S. Army Africa.

"I'm very optimistic about our ability to get after this fight," Williams said of the military's part in combating Ebola.

Williams said he expected the risk to be low for troops who are constructing 17 treatment centers for 100 patients each.

"As long as you exercise basic sanitation and cleanliness sort of protocols, using the chlorine wash on your hands and your feet, get your temperature taken, limiting the exposure – no handshaking, those sorts of protocols – I think the risk is relatively low," Williams said.

At the White House, President Obama authorized the Pentagon to call up the reserves if necessary to fight the epidemic.

In an executive order and a letter to Congress, Obama said that it could become "necessary to augment the active armed forces of the United States for the effective conduct of Operation United Assistance, which is providing support to civilian-led humanitarian assistance and consequence management support related to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa."

-- UPDATE: An earlier version of the article incorrectly identified the quarantined service member as a reservist.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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