September 8, 2014 / 5:03 PM / 3 years ago

Ebola spread is exponential in Liberia, thousands of cases expected soon: WHO

Health workers surround an Ebola patient who escaped from quarantine from Monrovia's Elwa hospital, in the centre of Paynesville in this still image taken from a September 1, 2014 video. REUTERS/Reuters TV

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Ebola virus is spreading fast in Liberia, where many thousands of new cases are expected over the coming three weeks, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

“Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially,” WHO said in a statement.

The organization noted that motorbike-taxis and regular taxis are “a hot source of potential virus transmission” because they are not disinfected in Liberia, where conventional Ebola control measures “are not having an adequate impact”.

The United Nations agency said aid partners needed to scale up efforts against Ebola by three- to fourfold in Liberia and elsewhere in West African countries battling the epidemic.

In Liberia, the disease has killed 1,089 people among 1,871 cases, the highest national toll, according to the WHO’s update of last Friday. Overall in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, 2,097 have died out of 3,944 cases. Another 18 cases and seven deaths have been recorded in Nigeria and one non-fatal case in Senegal.

Fourteen of Liberia’s 15 counties have reported confirmed cases, the WHO said on Monday. As soon as a new Ebola treatment center is opened, it immediately overflows with patients, “pointing to a large but previously invisible case load”.

In Montserrado County, which includes the capital, Monrovia, and is home to more than one million people, a WHO investigative team estimated that 1,000 beds are urgently needed for Ebola patients, the statement said.

“The number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in Ebola-specific treatment centers,” it said. “Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles, Larry King

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