WHO: Ebola death toll tops 1,900, surpassing all previous outbreaks combined


A medical worker of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy hospital in Monrovia wears a protective suit before going to the high-risk area of the Liberian hospital. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has surpassed 1,900 people, the World Health Organization’s chief said Wednesday.

Less than a week ago the death toll stood at 1,552 people. More people have now died in the 2014 Ebola epidemic than in all previous outbreaks combined (1,590, according to the WHO).

WHO’s director general Margaret Chan, speaking at a special UN press briefing on the outbreak, said Wednesday that the “Ebola epidemic is the largest, and most severe, and most complex we have ever seen in the nearly 40-year history of this disease.” She added: “No one, even outbreak responders, (has) ever seen anything like it.”

According to the WHO, more than 3,500 people have been infected with the deadly virus as of this week in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

While sounding the alarm on the rapid spread of the disease in those countries, Chan added that the outbreak in Nigeria is, while still serious, “much smaller” and mainly contained to those connected to the air traveler who first brought the disease to the country. However, a contact of that air traveler brought the virus to Port Harcourt, where there are now three confirmed cases, the WHO added. Senegal, Chan said, is still reporting just one case within its borders: a Guinean national who traveled there.

Speaking of the importance of a robust international response to the outbreak, Chan added, “with this international response, coordinated response, the money is coming, the technical experts are coming, so we hope to stop the transmission [of Ebola] in six to nine months.” 

The news comes as global heath officials worry that the window for bringing Ebola under control is closing fast. New estimates from global health officials indicate that it could take more than $600 million to control the epidemic’s spread.

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Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.
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Abby Ohlheiser · August 29