Hundreds of nurses and other healthcare staff are needed in West Africa to combat the deadly Ebola disease, the World Health Organization has warned.
The United Nations health agency said it was “reaching out to the international community” to help deal with the outbreak, which it described as “unprecedented” in scale.
The WHO today declared that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Earlier this month, senior WHO members and leaders from the affected countries met on 1 August to launch a joint $100m response plan as part of intensified efforts to bring the outbreak under control.
“We are looking at hundreds of international staff that we would like to get into region as fast as possible”
The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities.
“Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required,” the WHO said.
“Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilisation experts, logisticians and data managers,” said the WHO in its statement.
Gregory Hartl, from the WHO’s Department of Communications, added: “We need many more contributions from the international community… from anyone who can provide us with doctors, nurses, health staff, and other public health staff.
“We are looking at hundreds of international staff that we would like to get into region as fast as possible,” he said on UN Radio.
On Wednesday it was widely reported that a nurse who treated Nigeria’s first Ebola victim had died of the virus in Lagos. The nurse had helped care for Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old Liberian-American civil servant, said Nigerian health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu at a press conference.
Meanwhile, 10 members of staff are to travel to West Africa as part of a team from Public Health England. A spokesman confirmed that none of them were nurses.
“By the end of August, PHE will have deployed 10 staff to the affected areas, providing virological and epidemiological support,” the public health agency said in an updated statement on 31 July.
It added that it had issued UK doctors with information about the outbreak and provided advice for humanitarian workers planning to work in the areas affected.
Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at Public Health England, said: “We have alerted UK medical practitioners about the situation in West Africa and requested they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited the affected area.”
According to the World Health Organization, a total of 108 new cases of Ebola virus disease as well as 45 deaths were reported between 2 and 4 August in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
As of 4 August, the cumulative number of cases attributed to Ebola in the four countries stands at 1,711, including 932 deaths, the WHO said in its update on Wednesday. It is the largest ever known outbreak of this disease.
No cases of imported Ebola, a form of viral haemorrhagic fever, have ever been reported in the UK.
Timeline of events:
February 2014 – Outbreak of a haemorrhagic illness in south-east Guinea
March 2014 – Outbreak of Ebola confirmed in south-east Guinea. Later that month, tests confirm Ebola has spread into Liberia
May 2014 – Sierra Leone confirms Ebola has spread to the Kailahun district, east of the country
June 2014 – Médecins Sans Frontières declares the Ebola outbreak is out of control
July 2014 – First case of Ebola confirmed in Nigeria