No Ebola threat after Fort Hood soldier's death

KILLEEN, Texas (KXAN) -- The death of a Fort Hood soldier who recently returned from West Africa sparked concerns that Ebola may be to blame; but the soldier tested negative for the Ebola virus. Spc. Kendrick Vernell Sneed's body was found at his off-post home in the 3300 block of Cantabrian Drive. Killeen police say the 24-year-old man was lying face down, but didn't appear to be physically harmed. The officers investigating quickly learned he'd just returned from West Africa.

"Learning this information and knowing that he was deceased, and we couldn't get more information, they immediately backed off and took precautionary measures," said Killeen Police spokeswoman Carroll Smith.

Police called in the HAZMAT team and crews removed the Sneed's body from the scene and packaged his personal belongings in protective bags. His body was taken to the medical center at Fort Hood to be tested for Ebola.

Sneed returned from Liberia in early January. Soldiers returning from West Africa are supposed to be in quarantine for 21 days after returning to the U.S. However, Fort Hood Officials said Sneed was home on emergency leave and was "self-monitoring himself twice a day and report his status to medical officials."

About 500 Fort Hood soldiers were deployed to Liberia to help in the fight against Ebola. Those troops were part of the 36th Engineer Brigade who went to West Africa to build treatment centers as well as compounds for soldiers living quarters.

"We have no indication that this is an Ebola matter. It is considered to be very low risk. DSHS was made aware of the situation and gave general guidance related to infection control and handling of remains. Testing for Ebola will occur to ensure there is no risk to the community," Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams told KXAN.

In the meantime, first responders had to watch out themselves.

"We've kept an eye on those that were in the area, but anybody that had contact with the man, they have been quarantined," Smith said before the final results came back negative.

Just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Fort Hood officials announced the negative test results of a first screening. A more conclusive second test showed the same results.

Sneed, from Bossier City, Louisiana, entered the Army in 2009 and had been with the 62nd Engineer Company, 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood since June 2012.

Fort Hood officials said Sneed deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from February 2011 to January 2012 and from May 2013 to December 2013. He also deployed in support of Operation United Assistance from October 2014 to January 2015.

Sneed's awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver and Mechanics Badge.

An autopsy will determine the cause of Sneed's death.

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