World Health Organisation releases new figures, with practially all victims of virus within west African countries worst hit
The number of people infected in the outbreak of Ebola has risen above 10,000, with the mortality rate now approaching 50%.
The World Health Organisation said on Saturday that the death toll had risen to 4,922 out of 10,141 known cases globally in eight countries as at 23 October. Those figures show about 200 new cases since the last report, four days ago.
The three worst-affected countries in west Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – account for the vast majority of cases, with only 10 deaths and 27 cases recorded elswhere, WHO said.
Of the eight districts of Liberia and Guinea that share a border with Ivory Coast, only two have yet to report confirmed or probable Ebola cases.
The overall figures include outbreaks in Nigeria, where there were 20 cases and eight deaths, and Senegal, where there was one case and no deaths, that the WHO has deemed to be over. It also included isolated cases in Spain, the US and a single case in Mali.
However, the totals are still likely to be an underestimate because many people in the worst-affected countries have been unable or too frightened to seek medical care. A shortage of labs capable of handling potentially infected blood samples has also made it difficult to track the outbreak.
The latest figures show no change in the total number of cases in Liberia, suggesting that they may not reflect the real situation.
A total of 450 healthcare workers are known to have been infected with Ebola: 80 in Guinea; 228 in Liberia; 11 in Nigeria; 127 in Sierra Leone; one in Spain; and three in the US. A total of 244 have died from the virus.
WHO said on Friday that Ebola vaccine trials will start in west Africa in December, a month earlier than planned, and hundreds of thousands of doses will be available by mid-2015.
Authorities in Mali have taken action to calm fears over Ebola as the disease claimed its first victim: a toddler who was contagious while travelling more than 1,000km on public buses with her grandmother before being treated.
The WHO is treating the situation in Mali as an emergency because the two-year-old girl was secreting bodily fluids during the journey, which began in Guinea and took about 24 hours. The virus is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids.
“Bleeding from the nose began while both were still in Guinea, meaning that the child was symptomatic during their travels through Mali … multiple opportunities for exposure occurred when the child was visibly symptomatic,” the WHO said.
The Malian authorities were attempting to trace all those who had contact with the girl and her grandmother, placing 43 people under observation.
Mali had long been considered highly vulnerable to Ebola, as it shares a border with Guinea.
The UN flew about one tonne of medical supplies to Mali on Friday to help combat the outbreak. The cargo included hazard suits for health workers, surgical gloves and face-shields.
Meanwhile, anyone flying into New York and New Jersey after having contact with Ebola sufferers in west Africa will face a mandatory 21-day quarantine, the governors of the two states said on Friday.
The first person to be isolated under the new policy has tested negative for the virus.
The woman, who has not been identified, had no symptoms when she arrived at Newark Liberty airport but developed a fever after being admitted to hospital, the state health department said.