The head of the Centers for Disease Control in the United States warned this week that the situation in west Africa remains grim following the deaths of more than 1,500 people due to the Ebola virus.
"I wish I didn't have to say this, but it is going get worse before it gets better," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told the Associated Press this week upon completion of a trip to Liberia — one of four west African countries where the fatal disease continues to claim lives amidst one of the worst outbreaks ever of its kind.
The situation there "is overwhelming," Dr. Frieden told National Public Radio in an interview from Monrovia, Liberia earlier this week, where he said the outbreak "really is a crisis and is affecting most if not all the counties in Liberia already.”
The World Health Organization said on Thursday this week that upwards of 20,000 others may become afflicted with the disease before it can properly be controlled, and officials say that 1,552 people have died so far just in the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leona, Nigeria and Liberia since March, according to the New York Times.
"This is not only an Ebola outbreak — it is a humanitarian emergency, and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response," Lindis Hurum, the emergency coordinator in Monrovia for Doctors Without Borders, said in the statement this week.
According to the WHO, “more than 40 percent of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days,” however, and “most cases are concentrated in only a few localities.”
Two American aid workers contracted the virus this summer while on assignment in west Africa, but have since recovered after being treated and released at a hospital in the US. Doctors lack a cure for the disease, though, and its contagious nature has created a situation that officials fear will only worsen.
Speaking to NPR, Frieden called the current outbreak “unprecedented” and that cases "are increasing at an extremely quick rate.”
The CDC, Frieden added, "is working flat out on this, but this is huge and needs a global response. ... They need a lot of help from the world."
“This is very alarming,” he said. “It’s even worse than I’d feared,” he told CNN on Wednesday.
Frieden’s remarks came this week upon news that Dr. Sahr Rogers, a high profile Ebola doctor from Sierra Leone, died there while treating other patients suffering from the disease. His passing marks the third time this outbreak that a top specialist has died from Ebola, and the WHO believes that more than 120 health workers in all have died so far in the four affected countries, according to Time. That same organization believes that there are only two doctors per 100,000 people in all of Sierra Leone, where officials declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak in late July.