President Obama has backed plans to isolate soldiers returning in large numbers from Ebola-hit countries.
The US president said that American military personnel were in a “different situation” compared with healthcare workers. While civilians may be discouraged from volunteering to help fight the Ebola if they are facing quarantine on their return, troops were sent as part of their mission and could expect such inconveniences.
The differences in approach played into a fierce debate in the United States over how best to treat Americans who may have come into contact with the disease when they came home from one of the three West African countries hit by Ebola: Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.
The Pentagon said on Monday that Major General Darryl Williams, commander of US Army Africa, and 11 of his staff were put in isolation for 21 days of monitoring after returning from West Africa to their home base in Vicenza in northeastern Italy.
Washington has been seeking to dissuade US states from imposing quarantines on health workers, who are fewer in number, arguing that they can be monitored instead.
“We don’t want to discourage our health care workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way. Our medical teams here are getting better and better prepared and trained for the possibility of an isolated Ebola case here in the United States,” Obama said.
The president is due to speak again about Ebola on Wednesday.
The second of two nurses infected while treating America’s first Ebola patient has been released from hospital.
Amber Vinson, 29, has flown home to Dallas from Atlanta.
She was declared free of the virus last Friday but spent several more days in hospital before being discharged.
“While this is a day for celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families who continue to labour under the burden of this disease in West Africa,” she told a news conference.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, visiting Liberia, has praised West African countries and international donors for their response to the outbreak.
Samantha Power said the best way to prevent Ebola from spreading was to “tackle the problem at its source”.