Several dozen U.S. troops could come into contact with Ebola while testing for the deadly disease in Liberia, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The highly trained troops will help operate seven mobile labs, where they could be working with the blood of infected patients, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said. The new details on the military’s response to Ebola reveals a riskier operation than previously announced by the White House, surfacing fresh concerns of troops entering high-risk zones.
The U.S. response did not previously involve military members helping to diagnose patients, though Rodriguez maintained that troops will be adequately protected against the disease.
“I am confident that we can ensure our service members’ safety and the safety of their families and the American people,” Rodriguez, who leads the U.S. Africa Command, said at a Pentagon briefing.
U.S. troops are already running three mobile testing labs, doubling Liberia’s lab capacity, and plan to set up four more. The labs will receive up to 100 samples per day from local clinics and will be able to give a diagnosis in hours, instead of several days.
Military personnel who work in the laboratories are trained “at the very, very high level,” Rodriguez said. He added that the troops will wear protective suits and be constantly monitored.
“They will be the primary ones that come in contact with anybody,” he added.