Pentagon: No Plans to Scale Back Military’s Ebola Response

The 633 MDG packaged and delivered a modular medical treatment center, as part of the effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)
The 633 MDG packaged and delivered a modular medical treatment center, as part of the effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

The Pentagon has no immediate plans to scale back the military's efforts at combating Ebola in West Africa despite recent reports of progress against the epidemic.

"The initial numbers out of Liberia are promising," Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said of the latest progress reports, but "nobody is taking that for granted."

President Obama met late Tuesday at the White House with his national security and public health advisors to assess the U.S. response to the virus that has hit hardest in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Following her recent trip to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on CBS' "Face The Nation" program Sunday that she saw "positive signs" that the virus was being contained.

"More and more people are getting educated" on safe burials and other methods to avoid being infected, but there was still a need for more health professionals and nurses to build upon the initial progress, Powers said.

The Washington Post reported from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, on Tuesday that the rate of new Ebola infections had declined significantly in recent weeks.

Bill Berger, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster Response Assistance Team in Monrovia, said that the U.S. military would go ahead with the plan to build 17 Ebola treatment centers of 100 beds each.

However, Berger said the option to build those centers with as few as 10 beds was "being discussed," the Washington Post reported.

"We're still moving out on our plans to build these facilities," Kirby said.

If decisions were made down the line to curtail the effort, those decisions would be made by other agencies and not the Defense Department, he said.

Currently, there are about 1,700 U.S. military personnel in West Africa – the vast majority in Liberia and about 126 in Senegal, which is serving as a staging base for supplies and personnel flowing into the region, Pentagon officials said. The Pentagon has planned to deploy up to 4,000 service members to West Africa for tours of six months.

More than 4,950 persons have died of Ebola in West Africa and more than 13,500 have been infected, according to the World Health Organization.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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