The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola stood on
Wednesday at 1,069 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected
cases, the agency said. The majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone
and Liberia, while four people have died in Nigeria.
The agency's apparent acknowledgement the situation is worse than
previously thought could spur governments and aid organisations to
take stronger measures against the virus.
"Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of
reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the
outbreak," the organisation said on its website.
"WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international
response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease
control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and
International agencies are looking into emergency food drops and
truck convoys to reach hungry people in Liberia and Sierra Leone
cordoned off from the outside world to halt the spread of the virus,
a top World Bank official said.
In the latest sign of action by West African governments, Guinea has
declared a public health emergency and is sending health workers to
all affected border points, an official said.
An estimated 377 people have died in Guinea since the outbreak began
in March in remote parts of a border region near Sierra Leone and
Guinea says its outbreak is under control with the numbers of new
cases falling, but the measures are needed to prevent new infections
from neighbouring countries.
"Trucks full of health materials and carrying health personnel are
going to all the border points with Liberia and Sierra Leone,"
Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, president of Guinea's Ebola commission,
said late on Wednesday.
As many as 3,000 people are waiting at 17 border points for a green
light to enter the country, he said.
"Any who are sick will be immediately isolated. People will be
followed up on. We can't take the risk of letting everyone through
Sierra Leone has declared Ebola a national emergency as has Liberia,
which is hoping that two of its doctors diagnosed with Ebola can
start treatment with some of the limited supply of experimental drug
Canada's Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp is also exploring making more
of its experimental Ebola treatment, Chief Executive Officer Mark
Nigeria also has declared a national emergency, although it has so
far escaped the levels of infection seen in the three other
JUST ONE VEHICLE
Health experts say government responses to the disease need to be
calibrated to prevent its spread, while avoiding measures that could
induce panic or damage economies unnecessarily.
That task is harder because health services have been stretched to
the breaking point and mistrust of health workers among some rural
communities is high. In addition, 170 healthcare workers have been
infected and 81 have died.
A Liberian government document seen by Reuters shows the strain on
its health ministry as it confronts the emergency.
An Ebola call centre in Monrovia is struggling to keep up with the
volume and needs more staff, telephone lines and a deputy
supervisor, the Ministry of Health document said.
"The case investigation team only has one vehicle so they can't get
out and then there's the issue of no space at the ETU (Ebola
Treatment Unit) to bring patients," it said.
[to top of second column]
Ebola is one of the world's most deadly diseases and kills the
majority of those infected. Its symptoms include internal and
external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.
The U.S. State Department ordered family members at its embassy in
Freetown to depart Sierra Leone because of limitations on regular
medical care as a result of the outbreak.
U.S. President Barack Obama has discussed the outbreak with the
presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the White House said.
Ebola also holds economic ramifications for some West African states
as disruption to commerce, transport and borders lasts at least
another month, said Matt Robinson, a vice president at Moody's
Among the signs of the regional economic impact, Ivory Coast will
not allow any ships from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to enter
its port at Abidjan, according to a port statement.
Fewer passengers are arriving at Ivory Coast's main airport from
Freetown, Conakry and Monrovia because of the virus leading to a
shortfall of about 4,000 passengers a month, Abdoulaye Coulibaly,
chairman of Air Cote d'Ivoire, told Reuters.
Ivory Coast and its eastern neighbour, Ghana, have recorded no cases
of Ebola. Ghana's government said it would step up its funding for
preventative health and impose a moratorium on international
conferences for three months as a precaution.
Beyond the immediate impact, Africa faces a problem of perception
over Ebola, even though many countries are remote geographically,
economically and culturally from those suffering the outbreak.
In one example, Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said it will suspend flights
to and from Nairobi, Kenya, from Aug. 20 to prevent the spread of
Kenya Airways Inc said it will continue its flights to Monrovia and
Freetown. Kenyan Transport Minister Michael Kamau told a news
conference the Korean Air decision may have been based on a WHO
statement that Kenya should be classed as high risk of Ebola because
of those direct flights.
"The statement by WHO yesterday was regrettable. It was retracted,"
There was no immediate comment from WHO.
(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Anuradha Raghu in
Kuala Lumpur, Emma Farge in Dakar, Se Young Lee in Seoul, Loucoumane
Coulibaly in Abidjan, Mark Felsenthal, Stella Dawson and Arshad
Mohammed in Washington, Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg, Duncan
Miriri in Nairobi, Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Clair MacDougall in
Monrovia; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andre Grenon)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.