US Troops Number 2,100 in West Africa to Contain Ebola

U.S. Army Africa and the 724th Air Mobility Squadron prepare to move people and equipment in support of Operation United Assistance near Pisa, Italy. (U.S. Army Africa Lt. Col. Michael Indovina)
U.S. Army Africa and the 724th Air Mobility Squadron prepare to move people and equipment in support of Operation United Assistance near Pisa, Italy. (U.S. Army Africa Lt. Col. Michael Indovina)

The number of U.S. troops in West Africa has risen to more than 2,100 and the first medical facility built by the military to contain the Ebola virus has opened nearly two months after the first U.S. service members arrived, the Pentagon said Friday.

The 25-bed Monrovia Medical Unit in Liberia that was built to treat health care workers showing symptoms of the virus was opened over the weekend and was being staffed by 65 professionals from the U.S, Public Health Service, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

The facility has yet to take in any patients amid encouraging initial reports from the

World Health Organization (WHO) that the number of new cases of Ebola was declining in Liberia.

The U.S. military also completed work over the weekend on the first 100-bed Ebola Treatment Center for the general population in Tubmanburg in Liberia's interior about 44 miles north of the capital of Monrovia, Warren said. The U.S. plans to build a total of 17 of the 100-bed units.

As of last Friday, the total number of deaths from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea was 4,960 and the number of infections was more than 13,200, according to the Centers for Disease Control

The WHO reported that Ebola appeared to be receding in Monrovia but "new case numbers remain high in parts of the country." In Sierra Leone, the number of new cases appeared to be spiking. Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health reported Sunday that 111 new cases had been confirmed.

The U.S. now has a total of 2,132 troops in West Africa to combat Ebola – 1,948 in Liberia and 184 in Senegal, which is serving as a transportation hub for moving supplies and personnel into the region. The Pentagon has pledged up to 4,000 troops to the effort.

Over the weekend, 35 airmen and two C-130 transports from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, arrived in the Senegalese capital of Dakar to bolster the supply mission to Liberia.

The Air National Guard C-130s and the airmen from the 317th Airlift Group and 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess will take cargo arriving in Dakar by larger aircraft and fly it into Monrovia.

The Dyess airmen were joining about 70 other airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, who have been operating a cargo hub at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar since Oct. 5, the National Guard said in a release.

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

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