15 August 2014

West Africa: WHO - Magnitude of Ebola Virus Death Toll "Vastly Underestimated"

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in Monrovia closed down after several of its nurses and doctors were infected with the deadly Ebola virus.

According to the World Health Organization, evidence suggests the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is vastly underestimated. The UN agency said it was prepared for the crisis to continue for months.

The numbers of reported Ebola virus cases and deaths "vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak," the UN agency said on its website on Thursday.

The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola, first identified in March, has reached more than 1,060 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, the agency said.

The vast majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia while there have also been several deaths in Nigeria.

Several airlines have suspended flights to infected countries, however the WHO has emphasized that "air travel, even from Ebola-affected countries, is low risk for Ebola transmission" because the virus is not airborne.

Meanwhile, health officials in Liberia have received doses of an experimental Ebola treatment drug from the United States called ZMapp. The drug has already been administered to two infected American aid workers. A Spanish priest who had also begun taking the experimental drug became the first European to succumb to the virus this year when he died on Tuesday.

The highly contagious virus is a form of hemorrhagic fever that can cause severe fever, unstoppable bleeding and organ failure. There is no Ebola vaccine.

hc/lw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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