An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa is out of control but can be stopped with more resources and tougher measures, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan said on Friday.
The outbreak is the worst since the disease was discovered in the mid-1970s, with 729 deaths in four different countries.
“This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it,” Chan told the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone at an emergency meeting in Guinea’s capital Conakry.
“If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries,” she said, according to a WHO transcript.
But the outbreak could be stopped and the general public was not at high risk of infection, she said.
Governments might need to impose restrictions on population movements and public gatherings, and to use police and civil defense forces to guarantee the safety and security of response teams, she said.
With healthcare systems struggling to cope, more than 60 medical workers have lost their lives, hampering efforts to tackle the disease.
Two Americans working for aid group Samaritan’s Purse who contracted the disease in Liberia were in a serious condition and would be medically evacuated by early next week, the organization said.
Liberia has put in place measures including closing all schools and some government departments as well as possibly quarantining affected communities. Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency and called in troops to isolate Ebola victims.
However, the leader of Guinea’s Ebola task force said his country would not be following these moves.
“Some measures taken by our neighbors could make the fight against Ebola even harder,” Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité told Reuters, citing in particular the closure of schools.
“When children are not supervised, they can go anywhere and make the problem worse.”
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