GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that several thousand more people would get infected with Ebola in Liberia within the next three weeks.
Liberia is the hardest-hit country in West Africa since the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea in December 2013.
“Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks,” WHO said, adding that the case-fatality rate, at 58 percent, was also among the highest.
Up to date, more than a thousand people have died and some two thousand have been infected in Liberia. This accounts for a half of all fatalities and Ebola cases in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone, and Nigeria.
Several Ebola cases have been registered in Senegal, but no deaths have been reported so far.
Overall, about 4,000 people have been infected with EVD.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said last week that development partners needed to prepare for an “exponential increase” in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission.
WHO has named six countries that are facing the risk of the EVD spread: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal. The organization and its partners are now working with countries to ensure that full Ebola surveillance, preparedness and response plans are in place in these countries, it said.
To reduce the probability of the disease spreading elsewhere, the governments have set up quarantine zones in areas of high transmission including severely-affected cities in Guinea, Sierra Leone and in Liberia. This prevents people living in these areas from moving to other parts of the country and potentially increasing EVD transmission, WHO said.
The Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) was first reported in 1976 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and got its name from the river near which the first outbreak occurred.
It is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care.
The United Nations has launched a system-wide coordination initiative to assist the effected West African countries in stopping the spread of the virus, which has left more than 1,400 people dead and is now affecting more than 1 million people throughout the region.
On August 8, WHO Director-General Chan declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
WHO hosted a consultation on potential Ebola therapies and vaccines in Geneva on September 4-5 in order to gather expertise about the most promising experimental therapies and vaccines and their role in containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Participating in the consultation were more than 100 experts working in various fields, ranging from pharmaceutical research and the clinical demands of Ebola care, to expertise on ethical, legal, and regulatory issues.