October 24, 2014 / 10:17 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. military starts training its Ebola rapid-response team

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - As health officials were trying to manage a patient infected with Ebola in New York, U.S. military personnel in Texas were in the first stages of training a new rapid-response team that could head to hospitals the next time an outbreak occurs.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army 615th Engineer Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion practise the proper way to remove protective gloves during the final session of personal protective equipment training at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado October 23, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The 30-member U.S. Military Ebola Rapid Response Team assembled at the Army’s San Antonio Military Medical Center on Wednesday and consists of five physicians, 20 nurses and five certified trainers.

The group will supervise treatment and help hospitals deal with the intricacies of treating Ebola.

“There is always a fear factor when you are dealing with this disease,” Major Joseph Narvaez, a physician on the team, said on Friday when training was open to the media.

“The more we train the more confident we are.”

Team members said they have not been requested to go to New York City, where the latest case of Ebola in the United States was confirmed on Thursday night. It will deploy on the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the training, members practiced with military precision putting on and taking off the bulky personal protective equipment that is to be worn as part of the protocol for medical personnel treating an Ebola-infected patient.

In the next room, nurses dressed in the protective suits practiced taking vital signs on a dummy used for medical training.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new protocols for the protective suits after two hospital nurses in Dallas who had treated a man infected with Ebola became infected with the deadly virus this month.

Navy Commander James Lawler, a physician who has experience treating Ebola in West Africa, said a major effort will be made to make sure the team does not spread Ebola, or contract it themselves.

“Protecting our healthcare workers is our primary concern,” he said.

Physician Narvaez said the team sees its mission as a deployment to face an enemy.

“We try to know our enemy and know its weaknesses,” he said. “We absolutely know that we will defeat it.”

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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