The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan on Friday admitted the challenges and needs are vast to combat the ongoing unprecedented Ebola in West Africa countries, where 1,323 cases and 729 deaths were reported so far.
"The outbreak is by far the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of this disease. It is the largest in terms of numbers of cases and deaths," Chan said in a meeting with leaders of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote d'Ivoire to launch a intensified Ebola outbreak response plan to control the situation in Guinea capital city of Conakry.
She warned if the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.
She said the situation in West Africa is of international concern and must receive urgent priority for decisive action at national and international levels.
Despite the absence of a vaccine or curative therapy, she noted Ebola outbreaks can most certainly be contained.
"Experiences in Africa over nearly four decades tell us clearly that, when well managed, an Ebola outbreak can be stopped," she added.
She said the bedrocks of outbreak containment include early detection and isolation of cases, contact tracing and monitoring of contacts, and rigorous procedures for infection control, adding that the needs to contain the outbreak are vast.
She said the affected countries have made extraordinary efforts and introduced extraordinary measures. But the demands created by Ebola in West Africa outstrip your capacities to respond.
She highlighted the accurate and detailed mapping of the outbreak is urgently needed and the current numbers of national and international response staff are woefully inadequate.
She also voiced concern over facilities for isolation and supportive therapy need to be properly equipped and adequately staffed. "Some facilities lack such essentials as electricity and a safe supply of running water," she added.
Meanwhile, she said the traditional funeral practices are a well-documented spark that ignites further chains of transmission and public awareness of the facts about this disease needs to increase dramatically.
Under the provisions of the International Health Regulations, She announced WHO will convene an Emergency Committee that will meet on 6 August to heighten international awareness of the magnitude of this outbreak and the many challenges that need urgent support from the international community.
(Xinhua News Agency August 1, 2014)