WHO says West Africa Ebola outbreak still expanding geographically

WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward

GENEVA/LONDON - The number of Ebola cases in West Africa will go over 9,000 this week and the epidemic is still expanding geographically in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.

While there are signs of rates of infection slowing in some of the worst-hit areas, Aylward said the disease has now reached"more districts, counties and prefectures" than it had a month ago, and said case numbers would continue to rise.

He stressed it would be "really, really premature" to read success into the apparent slowing numbers in some areas, adding that by the first week in December, WHO projections suggest there may be between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases a week.

"We anticipate that the number of cases occuring by that time will be 5,000 to 10,000," he told reporters from the WHO's Geneva headquarters.

"It could be higher, it could lower but it's going to be in that ball park."

The total case numbers so far in the outbreak, "will go over 9,000 cases this week," he said, adding: "In certain areas were seeing disease coming down but that doesn't mean they're going to go to zero."

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