U.S. Troops Will Be Handling Ebola Infected Blood Samples

Posted: Oct 08, 2014 8:00 AM

Nearly one month ago President Obama announced he would be sending thousands of U.S. troops to West Africa in an effort to contain Ebola. Those troops landed just over a week ago and we were told they would be building hospitals, setting up medical infrastructure, helping with logistics and training people on the ground about how to combat the disease. Now we're learning U.S. troops will also be handing blood samples, raising questions about what the government is doing to protect them. More from Fox News:

The U.S. military mission to combat Ebola in West Africa is facing questions about the serious health risks American troops will encounter in heading to the epicenter of the deadly outbreak.

According to officials, a small group of trained military medical technicians on the ground will not be required to make direct contact with patients infected with the Ebola virus. However, they will have to handle infected blood samples, which Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday could be just as dangerous, if not more.

Pentagon officials say the service members on these small teams are the only individuals who will be intentionally handling any raw material that could be infected.

Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Africa Command, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday that these teams are trained to take all the necessary precautions.

"Those people are trained to the very highest level of operating in a nuclear, biological, and chemical arena, and they are tested continually," Rodriguez said. "The [team] from Walter Reed has been operating there for many years, for example."

Nevertheless, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said even handling the blood samples comes with serious risk, "if not more risk" than actually coming in contact with patients.

Meanwhile, workers in Sierra Leon are on strike and bodies of Ebola victims are littering the streets.

Despite bipartisan calls to do so, the White House is still refusing to implement travel restrictions to and from Ebola stricken countries.