WASHINGTON (AFP) – US troops heading to Liberia to help fight the Ebola epidemic will help train health workers but will have no “direct contact” with patients infected with the virus, the Pentagon said Friday.
The 3,000-strong contingent due to deploy to Liberia will be focused on training health workers in the country and setting up facilities to help West African countries tackle the crisis, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.
The troops will carry protective gear but “there’s no intent right now for them to have direct contact with patients,” Kirby said.
The first US military cargo plane arrived in Monrovia on Thursday as part of the US effort to help fight the epidemic, he said, after President Barack Obama this week issued an appeal for urgent international action.
“Right now, the effort does not include US military personnel treating Ebola patients,” Kirby said. “We’re going to be in support of other health care workers that are experts at doing this.” Kirby said a C-17 aircraft with equipment and seven service members landed on Thursday, with two more cargo planes expected this weekend in Monrovia carrying 45 personnel.
The small team will then set up a headquarters for Major General Darryl Williams, who will oversee the US mission to train local health workers and establish additional medical facilities, he said.