Will Deployed U.S. Soliders Get Ebola? ‘Very Real Possibility’ Says Medical Expert

U.S. troops deployed to help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa run the risk of contracting the virus, with ABC News medical expert Richard Besser stating that the possibility of a solder getting Ebola is “very real.”

American soldiers are in Liberia to build field hospitals and an isolation center for health-care workers infected with the disease. Still, the presence of the virus is so large in West Africa that Besser feels soldiers are at risk. Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Besser made it clear that U.S. soldiers may end up contracting Ebola, even if they are not there to care for patients.

“Right now we have a situation where only 20% of patients with ebola are being treated in treatment units. So there are a lot of patients who have ebola who are not in a protected environment. So the possibility of a soldier getting ebola is very real and something we have to be ready for.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seemed to downplay Richard Besser’s comments, telling ABC This Week host Martha Raddatz that the soldiers would not be directly in contact with those who are infected with Ebola. Although he did agree that soldiers could “indirectly get contact” with people infected with Ebola, he discounted the possibility that any of the soldiers deployed to Liberia would get the virus.

WebMD reports that six U.S. military planes arrived in Liberia late last week, and soldiers are now working on a variety of projects, including building a 25-bed Ebola isolation center for doctors and other health-care workers who have been diagnosed with Ebola. The fleet of planes, including four MV-22 Ospreys and two KC-130s, landed in the Liberian capital of Monrovia with approximately 100 U.S. Marines on board.

The Daily Mail reports that as the soldiers stepped out of the military planes, they had to stand in line on the tarmac to have their temperature taken by a healthcare worker. The female worker had her face covered with a medical mask and gloves on both hands as she took the Marines’ temperatures.

With over 300 American soldiers now in Liberia, there is a possibility that the U.S. may send more — as many as 4,000 troops may be sent overseas to help with the viral outbreak of Ebola.