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Health authorities struggling to control the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa warn that the spread of the crisis is unprecedented, calling it the largest outbreak in history.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 390 deaths were caused by the outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, adding that drastic action is needed to prevent even more deaths. According to WHO, that toll is greater than the 280 people killed in 1976, when the virus was first identified near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The WHO plans to meet with health ministers from 11 countries July 2-3 in Accra, Ghana, to agree on a plan to bring the outbreak under control. Health workers will have to tackle resistance from local people who are hiding infected family members, destroying medicines intended to help and adhering to rituals that fuel the spread of the virus.

“This is no longer a country-specific outbreak but a sub-regional crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners,” said Luis Sambo, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. “WHO is gravely concerned of the ongoing cross-border transmission into neighboring countries as well as the potential for further international spread.”

The director of WHO’s disease prevention and control for Africa, Francis Kasolo, says the outbreak is expected to last another three to four months, focused around the “hot spot” in the rural border areas where the three countries meet.

“What we are seeing is a lot of cross-border movement,” Kasolo said in a telephone interview. “When somebody comes in contact with a sick person in Guinea and crosses into Sierra Leone, as long as they don’t report having come into contact with an Ebola patient, there is a grave possibility that that person will transmit the disease.”

Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids, and tissues of infected animals or people. For more information on the virus, click here.

SOURCE: Bloomberg, WHO | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.