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Tuesday 16th September 2014
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Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

Thursday, 28th August 2014 11:15

More than 20,000 people could become infected with the deadly ebola virus, the World Health Organisation has said.

The UN health agency warned the actual number of current ebola cases in hard-hit areas could be 12,000 - four times higher than the number confirmed at present.

In what amounted to be a bleak assessment of the disease, the WHO said it believed the virus was still being spread in a "substantial number of localities" and added that "the outbreak continues to accelerate".

It also expressed concern at the unprecedented number of health workers who have died after treating patients in West African countries including Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The WHO's assistant director-general, Dr Bruce Aylward, said: "This far outstrips any historic ebola outbreak in numbers, as the largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases.

"What we are seeing today, in contrast to previous ebola outbreaks, are multiple hotspots within these countries - not a single, remote forested area, the kind of environments that have been tackled in the past. And then not multiple hotspots within one country, but international disease."

Of the 3,069 cases reported since the outbreak began, 40% of them have emerged in the past three weeks, according to the latest figures.

Its update on the outbreak came shortly after GlaxoSmithKline announced it was forming a new consortium to accelerate development of a vaccine to treat ebola.

Developed in partnership with the US National Institute of Health, it is set to be tested on healthy human volunteers within the next couple of weeks to see if it is safe and effective.

As the trials take place, the pharmaceuticals giant is set to manufacture 10,000 extra doses of the vaccine which can be used by the WHO if the clinical tests are successful.

Speaking in Geneva, the agency said it hopes to stop the spread of ebola across West Africa in the next six to nine months, with a particular focus on ensuring the virus doesn't spread internationally.

Dr Aylward said its plan will cost £300m to implement, with 12,750 health workers needed around the globe to tend to patients.

"Response activities must be adapted in areas of very intense transmission and particular attention must be given to stopping transmission in capital cities and major ports, thereby facilitating the larger response and relief effort," he added.