WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Pentagon said Friday that it may send 4,000 troops to Liberia as part of a comprehensive assistance plan against the deadly Ebola outbreak, but stressed that the actual number may change.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved 4,000 troops for potential deployment to Liberia, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told a press conference. "But I want to make one thing real clear, that that's a potential deployment. That doesn't mean it is going to get to that number."
The number, almost 1,000 above what President Barack Obama had previously committed, came at a time when the first person was diagnosed with Ebola in the United States earlier this week, putting health authorities on high alert.
Currently, there are just 205 U.S. military personnel in Liberia and another 26 in neighboring Senegal, the Pentagon said.
Over the last 36 hours, two Ebola testing laboratories manned by personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center are now fully operational, with a capacity of processing about 100 samples a day, Kirby said.
Meanwhile, "Construction of two treatment centers for other Ebola victims will begin today and should be completed by the end of the month," the official said.
Kirby forecast a significant increase in the operations tempo in Liberia and with it an increase in troops.
The U.S. Army said it had committed about 3,200 forces, who will provide medical and logistic support, as well as site security, in Ebola-hit regions.
Troops going to the regions will be monitored by medical experts for Ebola-prevention and health protection before, during and after deployment, Kirby said.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that the world's worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed 3,439 people.