The US military is intensifying the fight against Ebola


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A 30-person team of medical specialists training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas are expected to wrap up on Saturday, DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson told Defense One. The group – the Pentagon’s equivalent of a medical SWAT team – consists of 15 members of the Army, nine from the Navy and six from the Air Force.

They will then enter “on-call status,” ready to deploy within a 72-hour notification anywhere in the United States to train and assist civilian medical personnel should Ebola emerge, as it did at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas in late September.

“There is a huge nucleus of joint military medical knowledge and training resources that exists in the San Antonio community,” said Air Force Col. John DeGoes, command surgeon for U.S. Northern Command, including the Defense Health Agency’s Medical Education and Training Campus and the Brooke Army Medical Center.

Seven mobile laboratories are planned for construction in Liberia, as well as 17 Ebola Treatment Units, or ETUs, in at least seven of the West African nation’s 15 counties.  A team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just deployed to Liberia to help construct the ETUs—which aren’t scheduled to be completed until at least November.

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The Liberian Defense Ministry already has teams of their own engineers working alongside American troops building those 100-bed ETUs.

Currently, there are nearly 700 U.S. troops in Africa helping in the effort to build up Liberia’s lagging medical infrastructure for the Ebola fight, of which 581 are in Liberia and another 117 are helping with logistics in Senegal, according to the Defense Department.

In Liberia, Navy teams from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., have reduced the wait time for diagnosing Ebola from two to five days down to three to five hours, according to WHO, the result of the mobile laboratories processing blood specimens from the Island Clinic in nearby Monrovia.

In a video address to troops on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “We are doing what we do best, leveraging our unique capabilities to support the international and the U.S. effort in response to this crisis.”

Concerns about troop exposure to the virus grew when AFRICOM Commander Gen. David Rodriguez said at a Pentagon briefing two weeks ago that incoming U.S. troops will not be deploying with full Tyvek hazmat suits. He also said Navy lab workers would come into contact with Ebola patients.