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Ebola outbreak "unprecedented"

Wednesday September 17th, 2014

Africa is facing the "largest, most severe and most complex" outbreak of the Ebola virus ever, the World Health Organisation warned yesterday.

The outbreak is fast-moving with unprecedented features "delivering one surprise after another," WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan told a European conference of her organisation.

She added: "This is an unforgiving virus that shows no mercy for even the slightest mistake.

"To date, nearly 300 health care workers have been infected and around half of them have died."

She warned of whole countries shutting down - and an absence of hospital beds to take newly infected patients in countries such as Liberia.

“Delivering a baby in Liberia is the most dangerous job on the planet," she said.

She warned the whole world was now at risk and was ill-prepared to face the emergency - as the virus was starting to spread in Nigeria's oil and gas distribution port, Port Harcourt.

She added: "In the simplest terms, this outbreak shows how one of the deadliest pathogens on earth can exploit any weakness in the health infrastructure, be it inadequate numbers of health care staff or the virtual absence of isolation wards and intensive care facilities throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa."

Dr Chan's conclusions were backed yesterday by experts at Warwick University.

They said the outbreak was of an "unprecedented scale" and "out of all proportion."

University mathematicians had thought they had successfully developed a model to predict the impact of outbreaks of the virus.

Researcher Dr Thomas House said: "If we analyse the data from past outbreaks we are able to design a model that works for the recorded cases of the virus spreading and can successfully replicate their eventual size.

"The current outbreak does not fit this previous pattern and, as a result, we are not in a position to provide an accurate prediction of the current outbreak."

* According to WHO estimates, so far some 2,453 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Tags: Africa | Europe | Flu & Viruses | World Health

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