October 15, 2014 / 5:40 PM / 3 years ago

Ebola deaths near 4,500 as virus spreads in West Africa: WHO

MONROVIA (Reuters) - A total of 4,493 people have died from the world's worst Ebola outbreak on record, and the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is deteriorating, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

WHO said a total of 8,997 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola had been reported in seven countries as of Oct. 12, with the vast majority of these in the three West African nations.

In Spain and the United States, a handful of healthcare workers are ill, while Senegal and Nigeria appear to have prevented further spread of the disease, the WHO said.

"It is clear...that the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of (Ebola)," the WHO report stated.

In Guinea 843 people have died of the disease and an increase in new cases was driven by a spike in infection in the coastal capital Conakry and the nearby district of Coyah.

In Liberia, the U.N. health agency said that problems with data gathering made it hard to draw conclusions about the evolution of the epidemic, with the number of cases in the capital Monrovia almost certainly significantly under-reported.

A health worker in protective equipment carries a sample taken from the body of someone who is suspected to have died from Ebola virus, near Rokupa Hospital, Freetown October 6, 2014.Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters

The United States is deploying up to 4,000 troops to West Africa to help contain an outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever with the bulk of the effort targeting Liberia.

They are building 17 Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) across the country, a task that should be completed by the end of the year according to Ben Hemingway, the team leader for aid agency USAID's Disaster Assistance Response in Liberia.

Six such units are already up and running, he said.

"We see the ETUs as a referral system, but there will also be community care centers established throughout the counties," Hemingway said.

"The idea is that you will be able to get care closer to home so that if you are confirmed with Ebola you will be able to be moved to the unit (ETU) for a longer care there."

Nearly half of all the deaths in the latest outbreak have happened in Liberia. However, the number of cases appears to be falling in Liberia's northern Lofa county, the former epicenter of the outbreak on the border with Guinea, it said.

In Sierra Leone, transmission of the disease was rampant with 425 new cases between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12, WHO said, with the capital Freetown and the neighboring western districts of Bombali and Port Loko the hardest hit.

Reporting by James Harding Giahyue; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier in Abidjan and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Editing by David Lewis, Sonya Hepinstall and Lisa Shumaker

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