The largest Ebola outbreak in history has the potential to spread, according to the World Health Organization, who said Thursday the cases could eventually reach 20,000.
The number of cases in many hard hit areas may also be two to four times higher than previously reported, a new plan by the U.N. health agency suggests. If accurate, that would mean there are already up to 12,000 cases.
From the Associated Press:
The agency published new figures saying that 1,552 people have died from the killer virus from among the 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. At least 40 percent of the cases have been identified in the last three weeks, the U.N. health agency said, adding that “the outbreak continues to accelerate.”
That acceleration will be unlike anything health officials have seen from the virus.
“This far outstrips any historic Ebola outbreak in numbers. The largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general for emergency operations, told reporters.
“What we are seeing today, in contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks: 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.”
In response to the growing outbreak, the agency has released a new plan that aims to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries. The plan would curb the virus within six to nine months and prevent it from spreading overseas.
The plan calls for $489 million to be spent over the next nine months and requires 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers.
The goal is to take “the heat out of this outbreak” within three months, Alyward said. That will enable WHO to start using classic containment strategies to stop transmission altogether.
The next goal, Aylward said, is to be able to stop transmission within eight weeks of a new case being confirmed anywhere. “That is extremely aggressive but that can be done. It has been done in remote forested areas; it has not been done in urban areas.”
The third major goal is to increase the preparedness for dealing with Ebola in all nations that share borders with affected countries or have major transportation hubs, he said.
The 20,000 cases figure, said Aylward, “is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak.”
“That’s not saying we expect 20,000,” he added. “But we have got to have a system in place that we can deal with robust numbers.”
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: AP | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty