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Ebola outbreak could exceed 20,000 cases

New vaccine being developed and tested

August 28, 2014

As the death toll in the Ebola outbreak reaches 1500, the World Health Organization issued a bleak outlook for the spread of the deadly virus.

The Ebola outbreak could infect more than 20,000 people within nine months, and efforts to halt its spread could cost up to half a billion dollars, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

A new plan by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. If that’s accurate, it suggests there could be up to 12,000 cases already.

The plan calls for $489 million to be spent over the next nine months and requires 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers. $390,000 was earmarked for countries with widespread and intense transmission, particularly for the implementation of the full Ebola intervention package, the WHO said.

In an assessment released Thursday, the U.N. agency said the epidemic “continues to accelerate” with more than 40 percent of reported cases occurring within just the last three weeks.

“This far outstrips any historic Ebola outbreak in numbers. The largest outbreak the past was about 400 cases,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general for emergency operations, told reporters.

The agency plans to unroll a large initiative in late September, but continued to call on the international community to help with the response.

With health officials tinkering with experimental serums, dispatching germ-killing robots, and continuing awareness campaigns, the virus is doing more than bodily harm. According to the African Development Bank, Ebola is also an increasingly destructive force on the economies of West Africa.

Safety test for an experimental Ebola vaccine are being fast-tracked, meaning trials on humans could start in weeks.

British drug company GlaxiSmithKline said Thursday the vaccine is expected to be given to health volunteers in Britain and the United States in mid-September and then to people in Gambia and Mali.

The company said it plans to begin making up to 10,000 doses of the vaccine at the same time as the clinical trials, to make the vaccine immediately available if successful.

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