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Kirby: Timeline for Operation United Assistance Depends on Ebola Trend

By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2014 – The U.S. military effort to help prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa could be extended beyond its six-month mission if there is a surge of new cases of the deadly disease, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

Despite a reported drop in new cases in hardest hit Liberia, Kirby said it’s too soon to determine whether this trend will hold. “We have to be prepared for this to go longer than six months,” he said, “which is why the secretary authorized the call-up of more than 2,000 reserves and guard.”

More than 2,500 U.S. military personnel are in West Africa as part of Operation United Assistance, helping U.S. and international agencies battle the world’s worst Ebola outbreak by providing logistical support and training for health care workers, as well as testing fluid samples and building emergency treatment units.

“As construction gets completed, the requirement for those types of troops may decrease,” Kirby said, at which time Army Maj. General Gary J. Volesky, the commander of the mission, may decide to reduce troop levels.

The World Health Organization says Ebola has killed more than 5,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since March. None of the American military personnel deployed as part of Operation United Assistance is involved in the direct treatment of Ebola patients.

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