Ebola Epidemic Could Reach 10,000 New Cases a Week
The Ebola epidemic is still spreading in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and projections show there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week by early December, the World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward says.
Aylward said the projections for December "could be higher, it could lower but it's going to be in that ball park."
While there are signs that rates of infection are slowing in some of the worst-hit areas, Aylward said the disease has now reached "more districts, counties and prefectures" than it had a month ago, and case numbers would continue to rise.
The death toll so far in the outbreak has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases and Mr Aylward said the number of cases in West Africa will exceed 9,000 this week.
Briefing the United National Security Council on the Ebola crisis, Anthony Banbury, head of the U.N. Ebola mission in West Africa, said the WHO had advised that by Dec. 1 at least 70 percent of infected people must be at a care facility and 70 percent of burials done without causing further infection.
"If we reach these targets then we can turn this epidemic around," he told the 15-member council via video link. "I'm grateful for the commitments by member states of civilian and military personnel, of material and of money, but I am deeply, deeply worried that all of this combined is not nearly enough."
Banbury said a projection of some 10,000 cases a week by Dec. 1 meant 7,000 beds would be needed for treatment, but under current planning only 4,300 beds would be available by then and many of those would not have staff to operate them.
"To make up for the gap in beds, we must build about 2,700 beds in community care centers, or about 300 such centers. We will also need staff to manage the facilities," Banbury said. "We need to go from about 50 burial teams to about 500 and we need to equip those teams with about 1,000 vehicles."
The WHO has repeatedly said Ebola cases are under-reported in the three hardest-hit countries, and that understanding the scale and pace of the outbreak is crucial. Aylward said the WHO multiplies numbers from Guinea by 1.5, from Sierra Leone by 2 and from Liberia by 2.5 to get a more accurate picture.
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