Outbreak getting out of hand

The Ebola outbreaks in West Africa have raced ahead of efforts to contain its spread, said World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan.

More than 40 per cent of the deaths so far have occurred in the three weeks leading up to Sept 3.

More than 2,000 people have died and another 3,500 cases have been confirmed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

At least US$600m (S$751m) will be needed to fight the virus, and more than 20,000 people risk being infected before the outbreak is brought under control, the WHO warned.

Disease control experts, medical researchers, officials from affected countries, and specialists in medical ethics met in Geneva on Thursdayto examine the most promising treatments and to discuss how to fast-track testing and production.

The Ebola virus was first transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

Infection results from direct contact such as broken skin or mucous membranes coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids of infected people.

It can also be passed through indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.

Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks.

The disease is severe and often fatal.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders warned that a global military intervention was needed to combat the outbreak.

MSF condemned the global response so far as "lethally inadequate" and said the world was "losing the battle" to contain the outbreak.

It called for military and civilian teams capable of dealing with a biological disaster to be deployed immediately.

The charity also called for more field hospitals with isolation wards to be set up, trained healthcare workers to be sent to the region and air support to move patients and medics across West Africa.