Despite efforts by national health authorities and international aid
organizations to contain its spread, the WHO has recorded 635
infections, including 399 deaths, in Guinea, Sierra Leone and
Liberia since the outbreak began in February.
The crisis is already the deadliest outbreak since Ebola first
emerged in central Africa in 1976, and the number of infections
continues to rise.
"This is no longer a country specific outbreak but a sub-regional
crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners," Luis
Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement.
"WHO is gravely concerned by the on-going cross-border transmission
into neighboring countries as well as the potential for further
international spread," he said.
In response to the worsening crisis, the WHO said it will convene a
special meeting of health ministers from 11 countries in Accra,
Ghana on July 2 and 3 to develop a comprehensive inter-country
Ebola - with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, no vaccine and no
known cure - has not previously occurred in the West Africa region.
People there have become frightened of health facilities, blaming
them for importing and spreading the virus.
The Ebola virus initially causes raging fever, headaches, muscle
pain, conjunctivitis and weakness, before moving into more severe
phases with vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external
"There is an urgent need to intensify response efforts; to promote
cross-border collaboration and information sharing of suspected
cases and contacts...and to mobilise all sectors of the community,"
Sambo said. "This is the only way that the outbreak will be
[to top of second column]
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said this week that a
lack of understanding has meant people continue to prepare corpses
and attend funerals of victims, leaving them vulnerable to a disease
transmitted by touching victims or via bodily fluids.
MSF accused civil society groups, governments and religious
authorities of failing to acknowledge the scale of the epidemic,
resulting in few prominent figures promoting the fight against the
(Reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.