WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first planeload of hospital equipment in the U.S. military's battle against West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak will arrive in Liberia on Friday, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.
The United States hopes its expanded effort to contain the spread of the virus will help rally other countries in ramping up the global response to the epidemic, U.S. aid official Nancy Lindborg told a U.S. House of Representatives committee.
The plane is the first of 13 air shipments headed for Monrovia, carrying equipment for a 25-bed hospital to be built in Liberia's capital.
The facility will be staffed by 65 Americans who will treat healthcare workers infected while fighting the worst outbreak of the virus on record, according to Lindborg. The epidemic has killed nearly 2,500 people, about half those infected.
Army Major General Darryl Williams, who is leading the military operation, arrived in Liberia on Tuesday to sketch out plans for the effort announced by President Barack Obama that day.
The administration on Tuesday outlined a dramatic expansion of the American response to Ebola. The United States will send 3,000 military engineers, medical personnel and other troops to West Africa. They will build 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each and train thousands of healthcare workers.
"The hope, and the goal, is that, inspired by the response of the U.S. ... there will be a ramped-up response from a large number of international actors," Lindborg, assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Britain is expected to announce its own plans for tackling the epidemic soon, and the need for global action will be discussed at a United Nations meeting on Thursday, Lindborg said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has held discussions with other countries about their Ebola response as part of his recent meetings with international leaders in Paris, she said. The African Union and the European Union are also mobilizing resources.
"There hasn't been a requirement for (a) large-scale global capacity to address Ebola," Lindborg said. "This will be a sea change in how the global community understands the response to Ebola."
The virus struck in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea before spreading to Nigeria and Senegal. Some fear mounting health and economic consequences if the disease reaches the Ivory Coast, which exports 40 percent of the world's cocoa.
The U.S. mission will include a tent city and a facility to train 500 health workers a week in the rigorous clinical procedures necessary to prevent the disease from spreading at medical sites, Lindborg said.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis