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Italy Stages Ebola Evacuation Drill — Just in Case

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PRATICA DI MARE AIR BASE, Italy — Italian authorities on Wednesday staged an Ebola evacuation drill — just in case.

The exercise was just a simulation of the procedures that would be used to evacuate an Ebola patient to Italy. But for Italian military, Red Cross and health care workers, it offered essential experience, especially for those on the front lines of the country's sea-rescue operation involving thousands of African migrants who arrive here every day in smugglers' boats.

"There is an emergency," said Dr. Natale Ceccarelli, who heads the infirmary at the Pratica di Mare air force base south of Rome, where the training course was staged. "If one person is infected, he infects everyone."

The defense ministry stages the training courses twice a year, but added this extra session at the request of the health ministry because of the Ebola threat. "This capacity that we have created for ourselves should be put to everyone's disposition," Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told reporters at the base after watching the students perform the biohazard evacuation drill. "In this particular moment, Ebola is really on our minds, maybe a bit excessively," said Massimo Mazzieri, a volunteer with the Knights of Malta, who was taking part in the drill. "But we are ready."

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 Participants into a course to learn how to transport and handle contagious patients, stand near an 'Aircraft Transit Isolator' (ATI) during a simulation at the military airport of Pratica di Mare, 30 kilometers south of Rome, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. Domenico Stinellis / AP

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