MS Risk Blog

Ebola Death Toll Nears 2,000 Mark

Posted on in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, West Africa title_rule

According to new figures released Thursday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1,900 people have died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. There have also been 3,500 confirmed or probable cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. WHO chief Margaret Chan warned Thursday “the outbreaks are racing ahead of the control efforts in these countries,” adding that at least US $600 million (£360 million) is needed in order to fight the virus. Ms Chan has described the current outbreak as “the largest and most severe and most complex we have ever seen.”

The latest statistics represent a significant increase from the 1,552 deaths and 3,069 cases that were reported by the Geneva-based organisation last week. According to the WHO, more than 40% of the deaths have occurred in the three weeks leading up to 3 September. This indicates that the epidemic is fast outpacing efforts to control it. According to Ms Chan, the WHO “…would like to reverse the trend in three months” in those countries where there is a “very tense transmission.” This includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In countries with “localized transmission,” such as Senegal, where so far only one case has been reported, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which now has reported 31 deaths, the WHO “would like to stop all transmission within eight weeks.”

The speed of the deadly virus has prompted WHO officials to meet on Thursday in order to examine the most promising treatments and to discuss how to fast-track testing and production. According to sources, disease control experts, medical researchers, officials from affected countries and specialists in medical ethics will be represented at the meeting, which will take place in Geneva.

The Ebola virus has continued to spread in Nigeria, despite WHO officials stating that they were hopeful it would remain under control. On Wednesday, Nigerian authorities reported two additional cases in the city of Port Harcourt. Until the Port Harcourt case was announced, Nigeria’s government had indicated that the virus was contained in Lagos. On Thursday, the WHO warned “the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Port Harcourt has the potential to grow larger and spread faster than the one in Lagos.” The UN health body has disclosed that the virus’ arrival in Port Harcourt, located 435 kilometres (270 miles) east of Lagos and home to oil and gas majors including Chevron, Shell and Total, showed “multiple high-risk opportunities for transmission of the virus to others.” Out of 255 people currently under surveillance for signs of the disease, 60 are considered to have had “high-risk or very high-risk exposure.

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