Ebola outbreak in West Africa underestimated

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A government health worker at the Kenema Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone attends to a victim. Photo: IRIN/Tommy Trenchard

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the extent of the West Africa Ebola disease outbreak could be larger than previously thought.

The agency says staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the number of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.

WHO says it operational response plan will extend over the next several months as the outbreak is expected to continue for some time.

Confirmed death toll from the Ebola outbreak now stands at 1,069 out of 1,975 cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Tarik Jasarevic is WHO spokesperson in Geneva.

"There are chains of transmission that are not identified yet. Our teams when they go out of treatment centres into rural areas find people who are infected. So it really means we have to step up surveillance so we try to find all those who have been sick. We have to look at the bigger picture, that this outbreak has not only consequences on those who are sick and their families, but also on the society as a whole. That this outbreak can have very severe negative impact on economy, on social aspects, we also have a humanitarian aspect to look at because people who live in those areas who face travel restrictions from their government need to have enough food and health provisions and eventually if we do not contain this, we may also have security issues. We need all to understand that we need to step up response and assistance to affected countries."

He says WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, and within the United Nations system.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also delivering food to the more than one million people locked down in the quarantine zones, where the borders of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone intersect.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1.56″

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