Expanding Ebola toll and reach prompts high-level meeting

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that drastic actions are needed to curb rising Ebola virus disease (EVD) illnesses and deaths in West Africa, and officials have called a special meeting in the region for next week to plan new steps for tackling the disease.

In a statement yesterday from its African regional office, the WHO said it has deployed more than 150 experts to assist with the response. Despite those efforts, however, over the last 3 weeks more cases have been reported and more areas have been affected.

WHO headquarters in Geneva today stated that concerns about the outbreak are growing because the disease is being transmitted in both community and health settings, with illnesses in cities, rural areas, and border regions. It said the number of confirmed, suspected, and probable cases changes rapidly.

According to the latest reports, Guinea has reported 396 cases and 280 deaths, Sierra Leone 176 cases and 46 deaths, and Liberia 63 cases and 41 deaths. The totals for the three West African countries put the overall outbreak total at 635 cases, 367 of them fatal.

Luis Sambo, MD, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said in yesterday's statement, "This is no longer a country specific outbreak but a subregional crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners."

"WHO is gravely concerned of the on-going cross-border transmission into neighboring countries as well as the potential for further international spread," he said.

Sambo added that there is an urgent need to intensify efforts, share information about cases and contacts according to WHO guidelines, and mobilize all sectors of the community in order to ensure easy access to the affected outbreak areas. "This is the only way the outbreak will be effectively addressed," he said.

The meeting next week is designed to spur efforts to interrupt transmission in the shortest amount of time, according to the WHO's African region office. The meeting will take place in Accra, Ghana, on Jul 2 and 3 and will include health ministers from 11 countries and partners that are involved in the response. The WHO said the goal is to discuss the best way to tackle the crisis as a group and to develop a comprehensive, inter-country operational response plan.

See also:

Jun 26 WHO media note

Jun 25 WHO regional office for Africa press release

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