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News Section: World News

WHO Says Ebola Crisis Worse than Numbers Suggest

Published Saturday, August 16, 2014 12:06 am

BRADENTON – The World Health Organization says that the numbers of reported cases and deaths in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa vastly underestimates the scale of the outbreak. The agency is taking steps to ramp up the international response in order to stay in front of what it sees as a potential global crisis.

The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola climbed over 1,000 this week from just under 2,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases. The majority of cases were in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, while Nigeria also saw a couple hundred cases.

The organization is calling for a massive scaling up of the international response, coordinating support from individual countries, disease control agencies, the UN and others.

Emergency food drops and truck convoys are being looked at to reach hungry people in Liberia and Sierra Leone who have been quarantined from the outside world in order to stop the spread of the virus.

No drug or vaccine has been proven effective against the Ebola virus in human beings. Only one person has recovered after receiving one of the three prominent drugs used to treat the virus, though there is no proof that the drug was itself a factor in the recovery.

Health workers are struggling to contain the outbreak partly because of an inability to scale basic medical treatment in those countries. Lacking enough sterile syringes, saline drips, and even aspirin to control fevers, much of the focus has been on corralling its potential spread.

The most prominent fear is that the outbreak will reach a much larger and more transient city. Lagos, Nigeria – a city of more than 17 million – saw two deaths this week from about 180 suspected cases. A quarantine is in place there, but panic ensued when a nurse escaped a quarantine and fled to another nearby city of more than 3 million.

She had not shown symptoms of the disease, but the 21-day incubation period for the virus had not yet elapsed. Disease experts warn that a major outbreak in a large international city could immediately transform the situation into a global crisis.

Two Americans, a doctor and a missionary with the relief organization Samaratin's Purse, contracted the disease while aiding in the epidemic in Liberia. They are currently quarantined and receiving treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Three more Americans were also quarantined in North Carolina this week after returning from Liberian relief efforts. Officials there say they will remain in quarantine until the incubation period has lapsed.

Ebola is one of the most deadly viruses in the world, having killed more than 50 percent of laboratory confirmed cases of it being contracted, with the current death rate in Northwest Africa estimated to be as high as 70 percent.

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