UN: Ebola cases could exceed 20,000
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as doctors know about now, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday.
A new plan to stop Ebola by the United Nations (UN) health agency also assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.
The agency published new figures saying that 1,552 people have died from the killer virus from among the 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. At least 40 per cent of the cases have been in just the last three weeks, the UN health agency said, adding that "the outbreak continues to accelerate."
In Geneva, the agency also released a new plan for handling the Ebola crisis that aims to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months and prevent it from spreading internationally.
Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO's assistant director-general, told reporters the plan would cost US$489 million over the next nine months and require the assistance of 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers.
The 20,000 figure, he added, "is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak."
"That's not saying we expect 20,000," he added. "But we have got to have a system in place that we can deal with robust numbers."