WHO: Ebola outbreak set to double every three weeks in West Africa

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that the number of Ebola cases could start doubling every three weeks in West Africa.  It estimated that the outbreak will cost nearly $1 billion to contain, preventing the crisis from turning into a “human catastrophe”.

The unprecedented Ebola outbreak is believed to have killed more than 2,400 people across West Africa since March, with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the hardest-hit countries.

In a UN special briefing on Ebola in Geneva, Dr Joanne Liu, president of a medical charity, said that the response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind.

“The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is closing. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater deployment, and we need it now,” she said.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, further described the outbreak as “a crisis for the affected countries and their neighbours, for the African continent, and for the international community”.

Half of the approximately 5,000 Ebola cases occurred in the last three weeks, and WHO officials said on Tuesday that 20,000 people are likely to become infected before the outbreak is over.

In a report released on Tuesday, WHO said about US$987.8 million should be raised to combat the outbreak.  The funds are needed to pay health workers, buy supplies and trace those who have been exposed to the virus, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, urine or diarrhoea.

WHO reported that China has also promised to send a 59-person mobile laboratory team to Sierra Leone that includes lab experts, epidemiologists, doctors and nurses.

Britain is also planning to build and operate an Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone, and Cuba has promised to send the country more than 160 health workers.

Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that President Barak Obama aims to deploy about 3,000 US military personnel to West Africa to coordinate international aid, build treatment centres and train health-care workers, in an attempt to curb the escalating epidemic.