Geneva: The rate of new Ebola infections appears to be slowing in hard-hit Liberia, but the crisis is far from over, the World Health Organization said today.
"It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing of the epidemic there," WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva.
"There is increasing evidence that these countries can get on top of this," he said.
Aylward added, though, that he was "terrified that the information will be misinterpreted and that people will begin to think Ebola is under control."
"That is like thinking your pet tiger is under control," he warned, pointing out that the deadly outbreak had seemed to slow previously only to come back with more gusto.
Later today, the WHO is set to publish the latest death toll from the Ebola outbreak that has been ravaging west Africa, with the number of deaths expected to pass the 5,000 mark. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been most affected.
Washington meanwhile ordered a 21-day quarantine for all US troops returning from west Africa, calling it a "prudent" measure to prevent the spread of the virus.
Aylward said that the number of cases had soared to 13,703, up from just over the 10,000 WH0 reported on Saturday but he stressed that the increase was mainly due to previously unreported cases being added to the statistics.
Despite the panicked response seen in the United States especially over the handful of cases there, he stressed that virtually all cases, 13,676 of them were to be found in the three west African countries at the heart of the outbreak.
Liberia alone counted 6,535 cases, Sierra Leone had 5,235 and Guinea, where the outbreak began late last year, counted 1,906 cases, he said.
Neighbouring Mali, where a two-year-old girl died from Ebola following a 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) bus ride from Guinea, had not yet detected any new infections, he said.
Aylward said data from a range of different sources including from funeral directors and from treatment centres reporting lower Ebola patient admission rates indicated a "downward trend" across much of Liberia.
A number of beds at Ebola treatment centres in the country were now empty, he said.