Ebola outbreak: WHO calls for ‘drastic action’ to halt spread of the virus across West Africa

There have been 759 confirmed cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was detected three months ago

African politicians and health experts have gathered in Ghana for a second day in an attempt to find a way of halting the rapid spread of Ebola in West Africa – the worst such outbreak in history.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that “drastic action” is now required to stem the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and beyond. In the three months since it was detected there have been 759 confirmed cases in the three counties, resulting in 467 deaths, according to the WHO. The strain of Ebola kills up to 90 per cent of those infected.

Dr Peter Piot, who jointly discovered the virus in Zaire in 1976, said that the situation facing health authorities is “unprecedented”. He continued: “One, [this is] the first time in West Africa that we have such an outbreak; secondly, it is the first time that three countries are involved. And thirdly it’s the first time that we have outbreaks in capitals, in capital cities.”

Today, health ministers of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda again heard that the West African states lacked the resources to battle the outbreak.

“We are pleased that health ministries from the region and international aid organisations have recognised the scale of the current Ebola outbreak,” Marie-Christine Ferir, of  Médecins Sans Frontières, told The Independent. “We urge all parties present at this meeting to turn their promises into immediate concrete action on the ground. Qualified medical staff need to be made available, training in how to treat Ebola must be organised, contact tracing and awareness-raising activities among the population need to be stepped up rapidly.”

Meanwhile, Dr Dilys Morgan of Public Health England, warned that the outbreak was a “cause for concern” in Britain. While the risk to travellers was “very low”, she said doctors should “remain vigilant”.