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Obama To Announce Buildup In U.S. Efforts To Fight Ebola

Workers unload medical supplies to fight the Ebola epidemic from a USAID cargo flight in Harbel, Liberia, in August. (Getty Images)

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is already the deadliest on record, having killed more than 2,400 people. Health experts warn it could get much worse, if the spread of the disease isn't contained quickly.

That alarm has President Obama meeting today with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Obama is expected to announce a major buildup in U.S. efforts to address the threat of Ebola.

"The United States has unique capabilities in a wide range of areas," says White House spokesman Josh Earnest. "And that means the U.S. has a unique responsibility to step up in the midst of an international crisis."

The Defense Department plans to establish a medical beachhead in Liberia, the hardest-hit country, offering engineering support to build 17 new treatment centers, with 100 beds each. The military will also develop a facility to train up to 500 health care workers every week.

Officials say the U.S. military will serve as a backbone, encouraging other countries to offer their own assistance. The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency session Thursday to discuss Ebola. And U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power has asked countries to come with concrete commitments to fight the disease.

Even with the stepped-up effort, officials caution that it will take time to reverse the deadly curve of the epidemic. In the meantime, the U.S. is sending 5,000 body bags and training dozens of burial teams.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Five-hundred-million dollars - that's how much defense spending President Obama is set to request to help West Africa curb the Ebola epidemic. The disease has taken the lives of more than 2,400 people in the region and shows no signs of slowing down. NPR's Scott Horsley reports on White House plans for everything from medical support to burial teams.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: A top White House official outlines the chilling progress of the unchecked epidemic; dozens of cases have turned into hundreds, hundreds into thousands. If not stopped soon in heavily populated West Africa, the official warns we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of cases. That alarm has President Obama meeting today with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama will announce a major ramp-up in U.S. efforts to address the threat.

JOSH EARNEST: The United States has unique capabilities in a wide range of areas, and that means the United States has a unique responsibility to step up in the midst of an international crisis.

HORSLEY: The Defense Department will establish a medical beachhead in Liberia, the hardest-hit country, offering engineering support to build 17 new treatment centers with 100 beds each and a facility to train up to 500 health care workers every week. Officials say the U.S. military will serve as a backbone encouraging other countries to offer their own assistance. Still they caution it will take time to reverse the deadly curve of the epidemic. The U.S. is also sending 5,000 body bags and training dozens of burial teams. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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