LONDON –– The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 4,447, with the large majority of victims in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward also said there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if efforts were not stepped up.
But the rate of new infections in some areas has slowed down, he added.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit by the outbreak.
There have been 8,914 cases overall, including the fatal cases, and the WHO says it expects this number to top 9,000 by the end of the week.
The WHO estimates its figures by taking the numbers of confirmed cases and multiplying them –– from Guinea by 1.5, from Sierra Leone by 2 and from Liberia by 2.5 –– to account for under-reporting.
Aylward told reporters in Geneva that the WHO, which is the UN’s health agency, was concerned to see the virus was still spreading in the capitals of the three worst-affected countries.
He said the death rate in the current Ebola outbreak was 70%, describing it as a “high-mortality disease”.
He said 95% of cases were limited to areas in the “historic epicentre” of the outbreak, where the rate of new infections appeared to be slowing.
However, he stressed that it would be too early to read this as success.
The latest WHO projections suggested there could be between 5,000 and 10,000 cases a week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by December.
“It could be higher, it could be lower but it’s going to be in that ball park,” he said.
“In certain areas we’re seeing disease coming down, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go to zero.”
Countries neighbouring the three worst-affected states are “at risk” and it is important for them to prepare for the possibility of Ebola cases, the WHO said.