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Ebola epidemic tops 1,500 deaths: Outbreak cases up 40 percent in three weeks

The Ebola virus epidemic ravaging West Africa continues to take a tremendous toll on the affected nations as the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the death toll has risen to 1,552. Health officials say that there have now been 3,069 cases officially confirmed, CNN reported Aug. 28, a marked increase in just three weeks.

In fact, the number of reported cases of Ebola has risen 40 percent in the past three weeks, according to the WHO. Of the four nations affected (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia) since the outbreak began in March, Liberia has been hardest hit, suffering 1,378 cases and 694 deaths. The fatality rate at present is 52 percent, a significant decrease in mortality for a viral strain that historically kills 90 percent of contractees.

Due to the acceleration in the number of cases in recent weeks, the WHO issued a "road map" to address the "urgent need to dramatically scale up the international response" to the Ebola outbreak. They have prioritized the setting up of treatment centers, community mobilization and safe burials in the afflicted countries to stop the spread of Ebola. They have also projected a 6-to-9-month target date to effectively stop the transmission of the hemorrhagic fever virus and to ensure that it does not become an international problem.

Doctors Without Borders' head of operations Brice de le Vingne, said that the WHO's "road map" should not be used to give false hope, because shuch a plan is easier stated than actualized.

"A plan needs to be acted upon," de le Vingne said. "Huge questions remain about who will implement the elements in the plan."

Unfortunately, the virus has already spread to another country. CNN reported Friday that Senegal, which borders Guinea to the north, this week confirmed its first case of Ebola -- a student from Guinea. Senegal closed its border with Guinea last week.

Also, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported an outbreak of Ebola as well, albeit Ebola of a different viral strain. The WHO reported, according to the Los Angeles Times, that 24 cases of Ebola had been confirmed in Congo, with 13 deaths attributed to the virus.