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Ebola: Zimbabwe ready to handle cases

An Ebola treatment centre that can accommodate 40 patients has been setup in Harare.

An Ebola treatment centre that can accommodate 40 patients has been setup in Harare. Picture: AFP.

ZIMBABWE - Health officials in the Zimbabwe say they're ready to handle Ebola patients, if any cases are confirmed.

Health director Prosper Chonzi says they've set up an Ebola treatment centre in Harare, but it can only accommodate 40 patients.

Chonzi says they've designated the Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital as an Ebola treatment centre.

The centre only has enough space for 40 patients, but Chonzi says tents can be set up to accommodate more.

This is all thankfully, still hypothetical.

The country hasn't recorded any cases of Ebola which has already claimed nearly 3,000 lives in West Africa.

The Herald newspaper is reporting that over 200 doctors and nurses in the city have undergone training to detect and manage cases of the deadly virus.

US FORECASTS EBOLA CASES

Global experts issued stark new warnings of the scale of the Ebola outbreak, with the US government estimating between 550,000 and 1.4 million people might be infected in the region by January.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its projection was based on data from late August and did not take into account a planned US mission to fight the disease, so the upper end of the forecast was unlikely.

However, it followed research by experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Imperial College, which estimated that 20,000 people risked infection within six weeks.

It warned that the disease might become a permanent feature of life in West Africa.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has already killed over 2,800 people, more than the combined total of all previous outbreaks.

The disease has marched across much of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing dozens of health workers and crippling economies recovering from years of conflict.

Outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal appear for now to have been contained.

But nations across the region fear contagion and, against expert advice, have shuttered borders and restricted travel, complicating international efforts to fight the disease.

"I am confident the most dire projections will not come to pass," CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told reporters.

The worst-case scenario assumes that there are 2.5 times the number of recorded cases, currently at 5,864.

"A surge now can break the back of the epidemic," Frieden said. "If you get enough people effectively isolated, the epidemic can be stopped."

Amid complaints from aid workers and regional leaders that the world was doing too little, US President Barack Obama last week announced plans to send 3,000 troops to build 17 treatment centres and train thousands of healthcare workers.

The US move has been welcomed, but it was accompanied by calls for other nations to follow suit, since the disease was still spreading faster than the moves being made to contain it.

Underscoring this gap, a senior United Nations (UN) official in Liberia, the worst-hit nation, said on Tuesday that 150 foreign experts were in the country but another 600 to 700 were needed.

Antonio Vigilante, head of the UN Development Programme in Liberia, said Liberia now had 350 to 400 beds for Ebola patients, but that fell far short of the 2,000 needed.

"Even if we are at 2,000 beds two or three weeks from now, the cases we'll have in any single day may be more than that," he said.

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