Pentagon to organize Ebola response team

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon announced Sunday it is putting together a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian health-care workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered Gen. Chuck Jacoby, the U.S. Northern Command commander, to assemble the team.

The Department of Health and Human Services asked for the team, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

The team will consist of 20 critical-care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious-disease protocols.

"Once formed, team members will be sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of specialized training in infection control and personal protective equipment," Kirby said in a statement. "That training is expected to start within the next week or so and will be provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases."

Once the team is trained, it will remain in Texas in a "prepare-to-deploy" status for 30 days, available to be sent to other U.S. locations as required, he said.

The team will not be sent to West Africa, where the Ebola virus is running rampant, or elsewhere overseas.

The epidemic has killed about 4,500 people in West Africa since last spring, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.S. military has plans to help build 17 Ebola isolation and treatment units with 100 beds each at several locations in Liberia by early December as part of a $750-million operation to help stem the spread of the deadly virus.

Troops have also built a 25-bed hospital in Liberia for health workers who come down with the disease. It has been completed but is not yet operational, officials said.

More than 500 U.S. military personnel are now building the infrastructure in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the disease.