, ACCRA, July 2 – Health ministers from across western Africa will meet on Wednesday to plan “drastic action” against the deadliest ever Ebola epidemic as dozens of new cases continue to emerge.
There have been 759 confirmed or suspected cases of the haemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday, with 467 people dead.
“This makes the ongoing Ebola outbreak the largest in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread,” the WHO said in a statement announcing a two-day conference in Ghana to be attended by 11 West African health ministers.
“Decisions taken at this meeting will be critical in addressing the current and future outbreaks,” it said.
Since West Africa’s first ever epidemic of the deadly and highly contagious fever broke out in Guinea in January, the WHO has sent in more than 150 experts to help tackle the regional crisis.
Despite the efforts of the UN agency and other health workers, there has been a “significant increase” in the rate of new cases and deaths in recent weeks, the WHO said.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF)said last week that the spread of the virus, which has had a mortality rate of up to 90 percent in previous outbreaks, was “out of control”, with more than 60 outbreak hotspots.
The Who’s latest figures confirm 129 additional cases of Ebola. There have been 22 new cases and 14 deaths in the past week.
The agency has warned that Ebola could spread to other countries, warning those hardest hit could struggle to contain the disease.
The agency’s top Ebola specialist Pierre Formenti told AFP last month that the recent surge in cases had come in part because efforts to contain the virus had been relaxed too quickly after the outbreak appeared to slow down in April.
“One case can restart an entire epidemic,” he warned, justifying the dramatic measures taken to contain Ebola, which is spread via bodily fluids including sweat, meaning just touching an infected person is enough to spread the virus.