Ebola death toll nears 8,000 – WHO

The death toll from the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa has reached 7,905, out of a total 20,206 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

The figures are from four affected countries - Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, and four previously affected countries - Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States of America.

A statement issued by the WHO and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday said on December 29, 2014, the United Kingdom reported its first confirmed EVD case.

It said reported case incidence had fluctuated between 70 and 160 confirmed cases in Guinea over the past 15 weeks, whereas, in Liberia, case incidence had mostly declined in the past six weeks.

It said in Sierra Leone, there were signs that the increase in the incidence had slowed, although the country’s west was now experiencing the most intense transmission of all the affected countries.

“The reported case fatality rate in the three intense-transmission countries among all cases for whom a definitive outcome is known is 71 per cent.

“Interventions in the three countries continue to progress in line with the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response aim to conduct 100 per cent of burials safely and with dignity, and to isolate and treat 100 per cent of EVD cases by 1 January, 2015,” it stated.

The statement said every country had sufficient capacity to isolate patients, but the uneven geographical distribution of beds and cases means shortfalls persist in some districts.

It noted that in the past month, the average number of beds per reported patient had grown from 6.6 to 13.9 in Liberia, and 1.4 to 3.6 in Sierra Leone.

It observed that in Guinea, it had fallen slightly from 2.3 to 1.9 beds per patient, reflecting a small increase in probable and confirmed cases.

The statement said: “Each country has sufficient capacity to bury all people known to have died from Ebola, yet the under-reporting of deaths is a persistent challenge.

“The number of trained safe burial teams has significantly grown in the past month – from 34 to 64 in Guinea, 56 to 89 in Liberia, and 50 to 101 in Sierra Leone. This is close to the capacity needed in each country.”

It said all three countries report that more than 90 per cent of registered contacts associated with known cases of EVD were being traced, although the number of contacts traced per EVD case remains low in many districts.

“Social mobilization is a vital component of an effective response. Engaging communities promotes burial practices that are safe and culturally acceptable, and the isolation and appropriate treatment of patients with symptoms of EVD,” the statement concluded.