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'Ebola cases could hit 20,000 in 6 months'

The WHO warned the acceleration of the disease could increase number of cases to 20 000 over six months.

FILE: WHO officials wear protective clothing as they tackle the Ebola outbreak. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that at least $600 million will be needed to fight the Ebola virus, and that more than 20,000 people could be infected before the outbreak is brought under control.

The group reports that more than 1,900 people have died in the world's worst outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

It adds that the intensity and acceleration of the disease could increase the number of cases to 20,000 over the next six months.

Meanwhile, the fear of contracting the deadly virus is hampering efforts to recruit international health workers and slowing the delivery of protective garments and other vital materials to stricken areas in West Africa.

WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan said the overwhelming fear of Ebola was making it difficult to recruit the foreign medical teams needed to mount an effective response.

THE AFRICAN UNION'S RESPONSE

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) executive council will meet in Addis Ababa on 8 September to adopt and define appropriate strategies to enable Africa to effectively combat the epidemic.

Since its 14 August press briefing the organisation has had to try and deal with the sharp rise of reported deaths. The figures stood at 1,800 cases and 1,000 deaths at the first conference and the numbers have since swollen dramatically.

The emergency meeting has been called to gain a common understanding of the virus and for the council to have a collective continental approach, taking into consideration the socio-political and economic impact of the disease.

The council meeting is also expected to discuss the suspension of flights, border closures, as well as stigmatisation of the affected countries. Concerns have been raised around the socio economic and cultural effects that these measures could have on the countries involved, which could ultimately lead to increased suffering of people in these countries.

SOUTH AFRICAN READINESS

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said that 11 South African hospitals have been designated to deal with any cases of Ebola and are equipped and ready.

Motsoaledi said that they have been provided with guidelines on how to diagnose, isolate and treat patients as well as handle fatalities.

He said protective clothing for healthcare workers has also been supplied.

The minister said that if Ebola came to South Africa it would be more likely to enter through OR Tambo International Airport than by way of the country's porous borders.

The minister said that a team of dedicated experts meet weekly to advise the government on the Ebola threat.

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