Will U.S. Troops Be Protected From Ebola During Deployment to West Africa?

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 7:15 AM
Will U.S. Troops Be Protected From Ebola During Deployment to West Africa?

Three weeks ago President Obama announced he would be sending thousands of U.S. troops and military personnel to West African countries in an effort to combat Ebola. 

The White House said Obama will travel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta -- where US Ebola victims were treated -- to make the announcement, meant to spur a global effort to tackle the outbreak that has already killed 2,400 people.

It comes as alarm grows that the worst-ever Ebola epidemic which spread through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea before reaching Nigeria, is out of control. A separate strain of the disease has appeared in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of the US effort, which will draw heavily on its military medical corps, will be concentrated in impoverished Liberia -- the worst hit nation -- with plans to build 17 Ebola treatment centres with 100 beds in each.

But as troops get their boots on the ground in countries devastated by the disease, many are asking how the health of U.S. soldiers will be protected. Last week we learned military personnel will be handling Ebola infected blood samples and now some experts say it's inevitable some troops will contract the deadly disease. 

ABC News medical expert Richard Besser told This Week Sunday morning that there was a “very real” possibility one of the 3,000 U.S. troops being sent to west Africa to help fight the ebola outbreak could contract the virus.

The Pentagon insists troops deployed to combat Ebola will be safe.

"Let me assure you, by providing predeployment training, adhering to strict medical protocols while deployed, and carrying out carefully planned reintegration measures based on risk and exposure, I am confident that we can ensure our service members' safety and the safety of their families and the American people," Commander of U.S. Africa Command Gen. David Rodriguez said last week. "We will do everything in our power to address and mitigate the potential risk to our service members, civilian employees, contractors, and their families." 

Time will tell. 

Meanwhile in the United States, new screenings for temperatures have been implemented at some international airports and over the weekend it was confirmed a nurse treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week, caught the disease despite being in full protective gear.