It now appears that the Ebola epidemic that has swept over West Africa since March is at catastrophic dimensions, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to state that it must now take "extraordinary measures" to combat the killer hemorrhagic fever that likely has been vastly underestimated by initial estimates. As it stands, the worst Ebola outbreak in history has taken over a thousand lives and is raging uncontrolled along Africa's western coast.
Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 15 that WHO officials have now accepted that their initial reports of the number of cases, not to mention the number of deaths, and the widespread nature of the Ebola epidemic laying siege to West Africa "vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak."
And WHO warned: "The outbreak is expected to continue for some time. WHO's operational response plan extends over the next several months."
That estimate has been seconded by the charitable organization, Doctors Without Borders, who estimate that it will take at least six months to contain the epidemic.
"It is deteriorating faster, and moving faster, than we can respond to," Joanne Liu, the chief of Doctors without Borders, told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
While borders have been shut down and states of emergency declared in the affected nations, the Ebola virus continues to decimate the population. Historically, the deadly virus, which was discovered four decades ago, has a mortality rate of 90 percent, according to WHO. The current Ebola epidemic places the mortality rate at around 64 percent -- but given the WHO's statement of underestimation, that number could be wildly inaccurate.
WHO figures show that 1,145 people have died of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria thus far.
Prior to the current Ebola epidemic on Africa's west coast, the most deadly outbreak had occurred in Zaire in 1976, where and when the deadly virus was first detected. According to the National Institute of Health, that outbreak took the lives of 280 people.