U.S. military specialists in Liberia to conduct Ebola testing: general

Tue Oct 7, 2014 10:38pm EDT
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By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About two dozen U.S. military specialists deploying to Liberia will test laboratory samples for Ebola, but most of the nearly 4,000 troops due to go there are not expected to be in direct contact with the virus, defense officials said Tuesday.

General David Rodriguez, head of U.S. forces in Africa, said three mobile labs had deployed to Liberia and four more were being sought to run tests that would distinguish between people infected with Ebola and those who have diseases with similar symptoms, such as malaria.

Each lab would be staffed by a team of three to four experts trained to operate in the worst chemical, biological and nuclear environments, Rodriguez told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

The teams operate in full protective clothing. Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

The U.S. military is ramping up its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where it has already killed more than 3,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Concern is growing that the virus could spread to other parts of the world.

The United States has 348 military personnel in Liberia and Senegal working on combating the spread of Ebola. Rodriguez has been authorized to send some 3,900 troops if needed. He said at this point he expected the effort to last a year and did not think more troops would be necessary.

"We're going to stay as long as we're needed, but not longer," said Rodriguez, who estimated the cost of the military operation at $750 million for the next six months.

Many of the military personnel due to go to Liberia in the coming months are construction workers who will build up to 17 100-bed Ebola treatment facilities.   Continued...