Uncontrollable Ebola epidemic sweeps across West Africa

Liz Szabo ---- USA Today 

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is "racing ahead" of efforts to control it, and controlling the epidemic will cost at least $600 million, world health officials said Wednesday.

The number of people infected with Ebola has grown to 3,500, with more than 1,900 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, or WHO.

"We do need a major response," said Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO.

The WHO last week estimated that the outbreak – which now includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal – could grow to 20,000 cases and could take six to nine months to contain. The WHO also outlined a "road map" to controlling it that would cost $490 million.

Affected countries don't have the resources to combat the disease by themselves. Hospitals don't have enough beds, and there aren't enough ambulances, said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security.

Basic needs aren't being met in the hardest-hit countries, Fukuda said. "Bodies are not being taken away quickly enough," Fukuda said. "People are hungry in these communities. They don't know how they are going to get food."

In some cases, people are running out of food and can't cook any food they have, Fukuda said.

The WHO is convening an emergency meeting in Geneva Thursday and Friday to discuss treatments.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has signed a $25 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego to speed up development of ZMapp, the experimental drug given to a handful of Ebola patients as a last-ditch effort to save their lives. The contract could be extended for a total of $42.3 million.

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