The death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history has jumped by almost 200 in a single day to at least 2 296 and was expected to be higher than that, the World Health Organisation said.
The WHO said on Tuesday that it had recorded 4 293 cases in five west African countries as of September 6, a day after its previous update.
But it still did not have new figures for Liberia, the worst-affected country, suggesting the true toll was already much higher. The WHO has said it expects thousands of new cases in Liberia in the next three weeks.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she expected the Ebola crisis gripping her country to worsen in the coming weeks as health workers struggle with inadequate supplies, a lack of outside support and a population in fear.
“It remains a very grave situation,” she told an audience at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, via Skype from Liberia’s capital Monrovia. “It is taking a long time to respond effectively. We expect it to accelerate for at least another two or three weeks before we can look forward to a decline.”
Liberia’s defence minister told the UN Security Council that Ebola posed a mortal threat to the country.
“Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence. The Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our state,” said Liberian Minister of National Defence Brownie Samukai.
As well as struggling to contain the disease, the UN health organisation was having difficulty compiling data on the number of cases, said Sylvie Briand, director of WHO’s department of pandemic and epidemic diseases.
“We know that the numbers are underestimated,” Briand said. “We are working to estimate the underestimation.
“It’s a war against this virus. It’s a very difficult war. What we try now is to win some battles at least in some places.”
The outbreak began last December and has been gathering pace for months, but about 60 percent of Liberia’s cases and deaths occurred within the last three weeks, the data showed.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said Liberia’s Montserrado County, which includes the capital, Monrovia, needs 1 000 beds to treat Ebola patients but the medical charity can only provide about 400 of those.
“We know that every day there are more people that need to be taken care of than we can include in our programme. At the moment, there are insufficient beds,” MSF emergency co-ordinator, Laurence Sailly, said.
He said MSF was lobbying other non-governmental organisations and the UN to increase their response in Liberia.
“We are working also in Guinea and Sierra Leone, so we will not be able to have more than 300 to 400 beds here in Montserrado. We are not going to go more than that, and it is not going to do anything with the scale of the epidemic here,” Sailly said.
About 33 people are being kept in quarantine in a run-down house in the Senegalese capital Dakar after a student from neighbouring Guinea arrived in the city two weeks ago bringing Ebola.
The student is now in isolation in a Dakar hospital, his condition improving, according to the health ministry.
In Guinea and Sierra Leone, the other two countries at the centre of the outbreak, only 39 percent of cases and about 29 percent of deaths have occurred in the past three weeks, suggesting they are doing better at tackling the outbreak. – reuters