The United Nations reassured west Africa yesterday that the world's deadliest Ebola epidemic could be stopped in its tracks, telling the region's health ministers: "We can handle this."
The highly contagious tropical bug has infected hundreds of people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with the latest World Health Organisation figures showing confirmed or suspected cases had left 467 people dead.
The new toll is 129 - or 38 per cent - more than the UN agency's last bulletin just a week ago.
"These kinds of outbreaks, these diseases, can be stopped," Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security at the WHO, said, as 11 west African health ministers gathered for a two-day conference in Accra, Ghana, on combating the killer pathogen.
"This is not a unique situation - we have faced it many times - so I'm quite confident we can handle this. "But this is the most complicated Ebola outbreak ever because it is spreading so fast in both urban and rural areas."
Since the region's first epidemic of the deadly and highly contagious fever broke out in Guinea in January, the WHO has sent in more than 150 experts.
Despite the efforts of the UN agency and other health workers, there has been a "significant increase" in the rate of new cases and deaths in recent weeks, the organisation added.