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​Airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany, load a C-130J Super Hercules with needed supplies to tackle the ebola epidemic in support of Operation United Assistance in western Africa on Oct. 7, 2014. Air Force photo by SSgt. Sara Keller.

The US support for the international effort in western Africa to stop the spread of Ebola will involve at least 4,000 personnel, but only a very few highly trained specialists will have any contact with individuals who may have the deadly disease, the US commander in Africa said Tuesday. Most of the US service members will be providing airlift and logistical support and establishing the needed infrastructure, including laboratories to test potentially affected patients, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said during a Pentagon briefing. Teams of three or four specialists trained to deal with chemical and biological hazards will staff the seven labs to conduct the tests, Rodriguez said. “The health and safety of this team is our top priority … I am confident we can assure the safety of our personnel” and the American people, he said. Asked about complaints of a slow US response to the crisis, Rodriguez said he had to deal with evolving requirements and the host nation’s inability to quickly absorb the flow of people and material required. He could not say how long the US presence would last, but said installing the labs could take until mid-November and the whole international effort could last a year. (See also Tackling Ebola.)