Ebola: Virus is 'winning the race' against the world – UN official warns

UN Ebola mission chief says world is facing 'entirely unprecedented situation'

Heather Saul
Wednesday 15 October 2014 11:41
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A volunteer doctor who will travel to West Africa to help care for Ebola patients is disinfected during training offered by the German Red Cross (DRK) in Wuerzburg, Germany
A volunteer doctor who will travel to West Africa to help care for Ebola patients is disinfected during training offered by the German Red Cross (DRK) in Wuerzburg, Germany

The Ebola virus is “winning the race” and the international response to the crisis “is not nearly enough”, the UN official in charge of responding to the outbreak has warned.

“Ebola got a head start on us, is far ahead of us, is running faster than us and is winning the race”, Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects the pace of infections accelerating in West Africa - to as many as 10,000 new cases per week within two months.

Mr Banbury said the global response to the Ebola crisis must meet critical goals by 1 December "or face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we don't have a plan".

By that date, the world must ensure that at least 70 per cent of people infected are in treatment and at least 70 per cent of burials occur without contamination, he said.

David Cameron will speak with US president Barack Obama, as well as the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, about international efforts to counter the outbreak in a conference call later on Wednesday.

More than 4,440 people have died from Ebola, mainly in the worst affected areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

On Wednesday, officials confirmed a second healthcare worker who had treated Ebola victim Thomas Duncan tested positive for the virus in Texas.

The test results came after Nina Pham became the first person to contract the deadly virus in Dallas at the weekend. Ms Pham had also been in close contact with Mr Duncan while treating him before his death last Wednesday.

Ms Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields — and sometimes full-body suits — when caring for Mr Duncan.

But health officials have said there was a breach in protocol that led to the infections, a claim denied by the National Nurses Union in Texas.

Additional reporting by agencies

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