WHO revises Ebola death toll lower, virus
slowing in Liberia
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[November 06, 2014]
By Tom Miles
GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health
Organization said on Wednesday it continued to see a slowdown in weekly
Ebola cases in Liberia, although incidence of the disease was still
rising in Sierra Leone and stable in Guinea.
The three countries have reported 1,828 Ebola cases of the disease
over the past 21 days, the maximum incubation period of the virus,
and 64 percent of those new cases were in Sierra Leone, 22 percent
were in Liberia and 14 percent in Guinea.
The slowdown in Liberia, first announced by the WHO a week ago, has
surprised many experts who had warned that the disease was set to
continue spreading exponentially.
The WHO has said it may be the first evidence that efforts to tackle
the disease are working, while warning that the outbreak is still
not under control.
All three countries' capitals reported rapid rates of transmission
of the disease over the past week, but there were no new confirmed
cases in the epicenter of the outbreak, the district of Gueckedou in
The WHO revised the cumulative death toll downwards for a second
week running, with 440 fewer deaths reported in Sierra Leone than in
data published last Friday, but 284 deaths added to Liberia's tally
and 23 to Guinea's since then.
It said the revision was caused by a change in the source of the
data. Previously it had combined patient databases and country
reports from health ministries and WHO offices, but it had switched
to relying entirely on the country reports.
It did not explain the reason for the change, but graphs in the
WHO's update suggest it is taking a conservative approach, since
numbers in patient databases appear to have fallen below those in
situation reports in recent weeks.
The WHO has previously said it was working to improve the quality of
the data and warned that could lead to upward or downward revisions.
The latest report put the total death toll at 4,818 out of 13,042
cases as of Nov. 2, compared to 4,951 deaths in Friday's Ebola
update; but the WHO repeated a warning that the figures continued to
be too low because of under-reporting of cases.
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The response to the outbreak depends on building up health care and
increasing the number of safe burials of Ebola patients, since
bodies of those who have died from the disease are highly
The WHO said it now needed 528 dead body management teams, having
given a target of 370 eight-person teams earlier in the week. It so
far has only 27 percent of the revised number.
Another key target is tracing contacts of Ebola patients, and
although the data showed 95 percent of contacts were being traced,
the WHO said it mistrusted that figure, as Sierra Leone officially
averaged seven contacts per patient and Guinea four.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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