About 1,400 soldiers will head to Liberia this month to help support the fight against the Ebola virus that is spreading across West Africa, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.
The Army’s 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., will provide about 700 of those soldiers, while the other 700 will be mostly combat engineers culled from Army units across the force, Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The soldiers will be among the total 3,000 U.S. troops whom the Pentagon plans to send into West Africa this fall.
About 300 of the troops from the 101st Airborne will come from the division headquarters, and they will serve as the Joint Force Command for the mission. They are expected to arrive by the end of October.
U.S. troops will not provide direct care to patients infected with the Ebola virus, according to the Pentagon.
More than 3,000 people have died in the current Ebola epidemic and at least 6,574 have been infected, according to the World Health Organization.
Dr. Steve Monroe, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during a conference call Tuesday that the outbreak is considered nearly contained in Nigeria and Senegal, which saw just 20 and 1 case, respectively.
But in the most affected nations, including Liberia, where troops are heading, and Sierra Leone, the number of cases are doubling roughly every three weeks, he added.
“The most important thing we can do right now is get cases in isolation so we can stem this outbreak,” said Monroe.
The CDC estimates the disease could affect up to 1.4 million people by January if it’s not contained.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola in a critically ill patient diagnosed in a U.S. hospital. The unnamed man, who traveled from Liberia on Sept. 19, is being treated in the intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas. A second person, who had close contact with the Dallas patient, is being monitored for Ebola.
Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy for the Kaiser Foundation, said more than 300 U.S. government workers are in the affected countries, including 28 employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than 100 CDC workers and roughly 200 military personnel.