U.S. military personnel have begun constructing tent hospitals and other facilities to help fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, though experts warn that they may be too late to prevent the outbreak from killing thousands more.
The Wall Street Journal reports that troops from the Navy’s 133rd Mobile Construction Battalion began building the first of a dozen planned hospitals in a field outside the main airport in Liberia, one of three countries along with Sierra Leone and Guinea that has been hit the hardest by the epidemic.
As of September 23, the Journal says 6,574 cases had been reported in five West African countries — Senegal and Nigeria are the other two — with 3,091 deaths reported. Those official numbers represent a twofold increase in both categories from August, and global health officials have repeatedly stated their belief that the number of cases has been underreported by a factor of three or four. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that the number of cases would skyrocket to 1.4 million without international aid.
President Obama announced that 3,000 U.S. troops would be sent to West Africa on September 16. In addition to hospital construction, the military’s duties include unloading medical supplies and training nurses. However, the Journal reported that U.S. officials are still hashing out final details of the mission.
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