The Pentagon is sending 3,000 people to West Africa -- more than twice the number currently stationed in Iraq -- to expand U.S. efforts to help fight the deadly Ebola virus, President Obama plans to announce today.
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Military personnel will not directly provide health care to the thousands of patients, but they will help coordinate efforts of the U.S. government and various international relief organizations to contain the epidemic, according to a statement from the White House.
“It is so important that the U.S. is taking a leadership role in responding in West Africa,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor.
Besser added that with so few healthcare workers in the region, it’s unclear who is going to care for the sick if the U.S. doesn’t help. The president's plan only outlines care for ill health care workers, so there will be a big gap left unfilled, he said.
The U.S. military personnel will also help build additional Ebola treatment units in affected areas and recruit and organize medical personnel to staff them. Some of the facilities they help build will be used to train up to 500 healthcare providers a week who will directly deliver care to infected patients.
The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will also deploy 65 officers to Liberia – including administrators, clinicians and support staff -- to manage and staff a previously announced Department of Defense hospital to care for stricken health care workers, the statement said.
The president has called the Ebola outbreak a national security priority. He will outline the new steps to address the crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta today at 4:00 p.m., ET.
As of today, there were 4,985 probable, confirmed and suspected cases in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with 2,461 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. It has been called the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
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