Ebola death toll rises to 518 in west Africa
Agence France-Presse in Geneva
The number of people believed to have died from Ebola in west Africa has jumped to 518, the World Health Organisation said yesterday.
The UN health agency said 50 new cases - 25 of them fatal - had been reported between July 3-6 by health authorities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In a statement, the UN agency said the latest figures from health ministries in the three countries showed a total of 844 cases - including the 518 deaths - in the epidemic that began in February.
Guinea's ministry reported two deaths since July 3, but no new cases in the past week, the WHO said, calling the situation in the affected region of West Africa a "mixed picture".
Sierra Leone accounted for 34 of the new cases and 14 deaths, while Liberia reported 16 new cases and nine deaths, it said.
The WHO added: "These numbers indicate that active viral transmission continues in the community."
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib, speaking at a press briefing in Geneva yesterday, said: "This means that the two main modes of transmission are home care, people who care for their relative at home, and during funerals, are still ongoing.
"If we don't stop the transmission in the several hotspots in the three countries we will not be able to say that we are in control of the outbreak."
The WHO and 11 west African health ministers last week held crunch talks to try to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus in history.
Ebola is a form of haemorrhagic fever which is deadly in up to 90 per cent of cases.
It can fell victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea - and in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.
Ebola is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, notably bats.
It spreads among humans via bodily fluids including sweat, meaning you can get sick from simply touching an infected person.
With no vaccine, patients believed to have caught the virus have to be isolated to prevent further contagion.
Additional reporting by Reuters