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Ebola outbreak could take six months to control, says MSF

The Ebola epidemic is moving faster than the authorities can handle and could take six months to bring under control, the medical charity MSF said Friday.

The warning came a day after the World Health Organization said the scale of the epidemic had been vastly underestimated and that “extraordinary measures” were needed to contain the killer disease.

New figures released by the UN health agency showed the death toll from the worst outbreak of Ebola in four decades had climbed to 1,145 in the four afflicted West African countries – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

“It is deteriorating faster, and moving faster, than we can respond to,” Joanne Liu, the chief of Doctors without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, told reporters in Geneva.

She added that it could take six months to get the upper hand.

“It is like wartime,” she said a day after returning from the region.

“I don’t think we should focus on numbers. To really get a reality check, we’re not talking in terms of weeks, but months” to control the epidemic.”

Fear factor​

Elhadj As Sy, the new head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, painted a similarly bleak picture, speaking of a “fear factor” in affected countries that was hampering medical assistance.

Also recently returned from the region, As Sy said he agreed with MSF’s six-month timeline for bringing the outbreak under control.

The WHO said Thursday it was coordinating “a massive scaling up of the international response” to the epidemic.

“Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” it said.

There were signs too that affected countries were stepping up their efforts to contain the virus.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma announced plans on Friday for the construction of several more Ebola treatment centres, while urging the international community to “act quickly” in the fight against Ebola.

The four new centres would be built by the Red Cross and MSF, he said. - AFP