EU officials to travel to Ebola-hit west Africa next week

BRUSSELS - Senior EU officials will travel next week to west Africa to see how to improve and coordinate European efforts in fighting the deadly Ebola virus, a statement said Wednesday.

Ebola coordinator Christos Stylianides and Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis will visit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from November 12 to November 16, the European Commission said.

The disease has killed nearly 5,000 people, almost all of them in those three countries.

There have been isolated cases in the United States and Europe but authorities there are trying to put as many resources as possible into west Africa in the hope of containing the virus at its source.

The new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker discussed the Ebola epidemic - which Stylianides said requires a coordinated European response - when it held its first meeting on Wednesday.

Stylianides, who is also the commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, gave "an overview of the situation in west Africa," it said.

Before taking up his duties on November 1, Stylianides said that some 40,000 health workers, including many from abroad, were needed to fight the virus in west Africa.

"What is most needed at this stage is human expertise," Stylianides said. "Affected countries have few skilled staff. They badly need reinforcements."

He said there were many European doctors, nurses and others ready to go to west Africa now that they can be assured of being brought home for medical care if they become infected.

The European Commission said it and the 28 EU member states have mobilised more than 900 million euros (S$1.4 billion) in response to the Ebola crisis.