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Ebola deaths set to surge, expert warns

Friday October 24th, 2014

One county in Liberia could suffer 90,000 deaths from Ebola in the next six weeks unless international support is massively stepped up, researchers warn today.

As many as 170,000 people in Montserrado County could contract the viral infection during that time, according to the study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The experts say the county needs another 4,800 hospital beds, protective kits for home care and a five times increase in the speed with which contacts of patients are traced.

The warning about the growing scale of the disaster followed a meeting of the World Health Organisation's emergency committee yesterday. This heard that the official number of deaths recorded from the outbreak is still below 5,000.

Researcher Professor Alison Galvani, of the Yale School of Public Health, USA, warned: "While the window of opportunity for timely control of the Ebola outbreak has passed, the risk of catastrophic devastation both in West Africa and beyond has only just begun.

"While vaccines to prevent Ebola remain unavailable, our study urges a rapid and immediate scaling-up of all currently available non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies to minimise the occurrence of new cases and deaths."

The World Health Organisation yesterday said it remained opposed to travel bans affecting Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. But, it said, host countries could decide whether to allow participants from the three countries to take part in mass events.

A statement said: "The primary emphasis must continue to be stopping the transmission of Ebola within the three affected countries with intense transmission. This action is the most important step for preventing international spread.

"Specific attention, including through appropriate monitoring and follow-up of their health, should be paid to the needs of health care workers. This will also encourage more health care staff to assist in this outbreak."

Dynamics and control of Ebola virus transmission in Montserrado, Liberia: a mathematical modelling analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 24 October 2014; doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(14)70995-8 [abstract]

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | North America | World Health

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