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Ebola death toll passes 4,000 mark, says WHO

FRANCE 24 screen grab

The deadly Ebola virus has killed more than 4,000 people since an epidemic broke out in West Africa at the beginning of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

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The WHO said that as of October 8, a total of 4,033 people have died from Ebola out of a total of 8,399 registered cases.

The seven affected countries are split into two groups by WHO. The first includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- by far the worst-affected countries.

The second includes Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and United States, which have seen a small number of highly isolated cases.

On Friday, David Nabarro, the UN special envoy for Ebola, said the number of Ebola cases is probably doubling every three-to-four weeks and the response needs to be 20 times greater than it was at the beginning of October.

He warned the UN General Assembly that without the mass mobilisation of the world to support the affected countries in West Africa, “it will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control, and the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever.”

Nabarro said the UN knows what needs to be done to catch up to and overtake Ebola’s rapid advance “and together we’re going to do it”.

“And our commitment to all of you is to achieve it within a matter of months – a few months,” he said.

The latest statistics come as Liberian lawmakers on Friday rejected a proposal to grant President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the power to further restrict movement and public gatherings and to confiscate property in the fight against Ebola.

Liberia has been the hardest hit by the current epidemic, having registered a total of 2,316 deaths so far.

‘Police state’

On August 6, Sirleaf’s government imposed a three-month state of emergency, but critics have accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s approach to fighting Ebola since then as ineffective and heavy handed.

“I see a kind of police state creeping in,” lawmaker Bhofal Chambers, a one-time Sirleaf supporter, said.

In August, a quarantine of Monrovia’s largest shantytown sparked unrest and was derided as counterproductive before being lifted. The Committee to Protect Journalists has also accused Sirleaf’s government of trying to silence media outlets criticising its conduct.

Meanwhile, the US military was rushing to set up a 25-bed hospital to treat health workers who may contract Ebola.

The arrival of 100 US Marines on Thursday brings to just over 300 the total number of American troops in Liberia. The Marines and their aircraft will help with air transportation and ferrying of supplies, overcoming road congestion in Monrovia and bad roads outside the capital.

One of the priorities will be to transport building materials to treatment unit sites. The US has said it will oversee construction of 17 treatment units with 100 beds each.

The 101st Airborne Division is expected to deploy 700 troops by late October. The US may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis, though officials have stressed that number could change depending on needs.

New vaccine studies underway

In Mali, a health ministry spokesman said two more people had begun participating in the first phase of a study for a possible Ebola vaccine. Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. University of Maryland researchers announced Thursday that the first study of a possible vaccine was underway, and that three health care workers in Mali had received the experimental shots developed by the US government.

“Today, we are at five people vaccinated,” health ministry spokesman Markatie Daou said. “We envision vaccinating between 20 and 40 people for this first phase and the results are expected next month.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, meanwhile, visited the Madrid hospital where a nursing assistant infected with Ebola is being treated.

Teresa Romero was scheduled to start receiving the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp, which is in extremely short supply worldwide, a spokeswoman for Madrid’s regional health agency said on condition of anonymity because of agency rules.

Romero contracted Ebola in Madrid while helping treat a Spanish missionary who became infected in West Africa, and later died. She is the first person known outside of West Africa to have caught the disease in the current outbreak.

Rajoy praised Spanish health care workers and said theWHO thinks “the risk is very low that this disease will spread in the future” in Spain and Europe.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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