Ebola toll tops 1,550, outbreak accelerates: WHO

1124

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,552 people out of 3,069 known cases in four countries and “continues to accelerate”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

The epidemic in the region, the deadliest since the disease was first discovered in 1976, has killed nearly as many people as all the previous known outbreaks combined.
“More than 40 percent of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities,” the United Nations health agency said in a statement.

The WHO is later due to launch a new strategic plan for tackling the spread of the virulent disease.

A separate Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, identified as a different strain of the virus, is not included in the latest figures which cover Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The disease has overwhelmed West Africa’s already fragile health infrastructure. On Wednesday, the head of the African Development Bank said it was causing enormous damage to the economies of the region.

The WHO on Thursday warned that the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa could infect more than 20,000 people.

The United Nations health agency issued a strategic plan to combat the oubreak in four West African nations where it said the actual number of cases could already be two to four times higher than the reported 3,069.
“This roadmap assumes that in many areas of intense transmission the actual number of cases may be 2-4 fold higher than that currently reported. It acknowledges that the aggregate case load of Ebola Virus Disease could exceed 20,000 over the course of this emergency,” the WHO said.

The deadly outbreak that began in Guinea in March and has spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as to Nigeria requires a massive and coordinated international response, the WHO said.
“Response activities must be adapted in areas of very intense transmission and particular attention must be given to stopping transmission in capital cities and major ports, thereby facilitating the larger response and relief effort,” the WHO said.

The virus is still being spread in a “substantial number of localities”, aggravating fragile social and economic conditions and has already killed an unprecedented number of health workers, the agency said.

A wider U.N.-led plan being launched by the end of September is “expected to underpin support for the increasingly acute problems associated with food security, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, primary and secondary health care and education, as well as the longer-term recovery effort that will be needed,” the WHO said.