Ebola threatening Liberia's existence, warns minister

Ebola is threatening the very existence of Liberia as the killer virus spreads like "wild fire", the defence minister warned, following a grim World Health Organisation assessment that the worst is yet to come.

Monrovia: Ebola is threatening the very existence of Liberia as the killer virus spreads like "wild fire", the defence minister warned, following a grim World Health Organisation assessment that the worst is yet to come.

After predicting an "exponential increase" in infections across West Africa, the WHO warned that Liberia, which has accounted for half of all fatalities, could initially only hope to slow the contagion, not stop it.
"Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence," Defense Minister Brownie Samukai told a meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday.

The disease is "now spreading like wild fire, devouring everything in its path," he said.

The WHO upped the Ebola death toll yesterday to 2,296 out of 4,293 cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria as of September 6. Nearly half of all infections had occurred in the past 21 days, it said.

The agency also evacuated its second infected medical expert, a doctor who had been working at an Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

Emory University Hospital in the United States admitted an American on Tuesday who had contracted the disease in west Africa, but declined to confirm whether the patient was the WHO employee.

The hospital has successfully treated two other infected US nationals.

Ebola, transmitted through bodily fluids, leads to haemorrhagic fever and -- in over half of cases -- death. There is no specific treatment regime and no licensed vaccine.

The latest WHO figures underscore Ebola's asymmetric spread, as it rips through densely populated communities with decrepit health facilities and poor public awareness campaigns.

Speaking Tuesday, WHO's epidemiology chief Sylvie Briand said the goal in Senegal and Nigeria was now "to stop transmission completely". Senegal has announced only one infection, while Nigeria has recorded 19 infections and eight deaths.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is battling a separate outbreak which has killed 32 in a remote northwestern region.

"But in other locations, like Monrovia, where we have really wide community transmission, we are aiming at two-step strategies," Briand said in Geneva, "first, to reduce the transmission as much as possible and, when it becomes controllable, we will also try to stop it completely.

"But at this point in time we need to be pragmatic and try to reduce it in the initial steps."

 

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