Ebola cases in west Africa could rise to 20,000 says WHO

31 Aug

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Lisa O’Carroll

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000 as doctors in Liberia say the deadly virus is now spreading so rapidly they can no longer deal with the crisis.

The UN health agency said the outbreak is accelerating in West Africa, where the death toll has now reached 1,552, and it believes the numbers who have been hit by Ebola could be two to four times higher than the current 3,069 cases currently reported.

“[It] is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak,” said Bruce Aylward, assistant director general of WHO.

He said the increase came from cities including the Liberian capital Monrovia, where a slum was quarantined last week, leading to food shortages and civil unrest.

“It’s really just some urban areas that have outstripped the reporting capacity,” he said. Up to now most efforts have concentrated on rural areas close to the Guinea border. His remarks come as Medecins sans Frontieres said it was struggling to cope with the caseload in Monrovia. MSF has just opened a new Ebola hospital in the Liberian capital and after one week it’s already at capacity of 120 patients.

“The number of patients we are treating is unlike anything we’ve seen in previous outbreaks,” said Lindis Hurum, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Monrovia. “This is not an Ebola outbreak, it is a humanitarian emergency and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response.”

The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea in March and is the 26th since 1976 when the virus was first identified, but is widely recognised to be out of control.

“It is simply unacceptable that, five months after the declaration of this outbreak, serious discussions are only now starting about international leadership and co-ordination,” said MSF director of operations Brice de la Vigne.

Read the full article on The Guardian.

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