AFRICANGLOBE – As Obama administration officials sought to reassure Americans about efforts to contain Ebola in the wake of the first U.S. case, the military announced Friday that an additional 1,000 troops could be sent to West Africa, allegedly to help fight the virus.
And that number could go higher than that, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
“I’m not going to put a floor or ceiling on this,” Kirby said.
President Obama initially ordered 3,000 troops to West Africa to help build hospitals, labs and treatment centers and provide logistics help. They are not going to treat Ebola victims.
“We are not going to be in the treatment business,” Kirby said.
The new deployment includes soldiers from Army posts around the country and include engineers, logistics and civil affairs experts and military police officers.
Troops will be constantly monitored during their deployment and screened for the disease when they return, Kirby said.
The Pentagon is developing a protocol for troops suspected of being exposed to the virus, Kirby said. They will be monitored “constantly” for 21 days.
“It’s not a quarantine necessarily,” Kirby said.
The soldiers will deploy later this month and could stay through November, according to an Army statement.
There are currently 231 U.S. troops in West Africa, most of them in Liberia.
The deployment announcement came as a hazardous-materials crew in Dallas decontaminated the Texas apartment where an Ebola patient stayed.
The Ebola victim made his way from Africa to Dallas, prompting questions about whether the United States and allies will be able to contain the epidemic.
Obama, en route to a speech in Indiana, telephoned Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, to “get an update on the American military’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
At the White House, officials called a news conference to reassure Americans that they are taking steps to stop the spread of the virus, including tighter screening at international airports and local hospitals.
“The United States is prepared to deal with this crisis, both at home and in the region,” said Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism. “We know how to do this.”
Monaco called the Dallas incident “an isolated case” and said “the American people should be confident” that there will not be an outbreak in the United States.
Ebola is not just a public health crisis, but “a national security priority,” she said.
Officials said the government is providing guidance to state and local officials, hospital and health care workers, pilots, flight attendants, customs officials and border guards on how to spot potential signs of Ebola, investigate them, and treat them.
As for calls to prevent travel from West Africa, Earnest said, “There’s no consideration of a travel ban at this point.”
The officials stressed that people can only get Ebola through an exchange of body fluids.
The disease “is not easily transmitted,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
The strength of the U.S. health care system “would make it extraordinarily unlikely that we would have an outbreak” in this country, Fauci said.
Obama has scheduled a staff meeting for Monday to discuss the Ebola response.
By: Tom Vanden Brook and David Jackson