Only a handful of highly trained U.S. troops among the thousands bound for West Africa will have direct contact with potential Ebola samples being tested in labs, military leaders said Tuesday. Those soldiers will be posted at medical units to help identify possible Ebola cases — and they won't have direct contact with patients, the military later clarified.
At an earlier Pentagon news conference, U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), misspoke when he said those troops would come into contact with patients. He added that the soldiers “meet the highest level of standards” and are already trained to deal with major crises, including nuclear disasters. Three medical testing labs — each with about three or four soldiers stationed there — are already in use. Another four more facilities have been requested.
Rodriguez also pledged that the 4,000 service members deployed to the ravaged region will be kept safe — and won’t be a threat when they return home. The military is using a combination of redeployment training, strict protocols and “careful reintegration” back into the U.S. to protect these troops. “I am confident we can ensure our service members’ safety and the safety of the American people,” Rodriguez said.
If a soldier is exposed to Ebola, he or she will be flown back to the United States for treatment, he added. These soldiers and military contractors are consisting of engineers, medical specialists and logisticians who can help build the medical centers and give training to local health-care workers. The entire operation is costing about $750 million over six months. Troops on Monday were building the first of 17 medical centers in Liberia — one of three countries at the heart of the deadly outbreak that has killed more than 3,400 people.
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