Dramatic surge in Ebola deaths

Dakar - More than 1 900 people have died in the Ebola epidemic sweeping through West Africa, the head of the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.

"As of this week, we are reporting 3 500 cases confirmed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and more than 1 900 deaths - and the outbreak is rising," Margaret Chan told reporters in Washington.

The latest toll represents a significant increase from the 1 552 deaths and 3 069 cases reported by the Geneva-based organisation just days ago.

Speaking at a news conference, Chan said she hoped that, thanks to the global response to the crisis, transmission of the often fatal virus could be stopped in six to nine months.

"With this international response, co-ordinated response, the money is coming, the technical experts are coming, so we hope to stop the transmission in six to nine months," Chan said.

Citing the WHO's roadmap to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history, she said that in countries with "very intense transmission" - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - "we would like to reverse the trend in three months".

She said for countries with "localised transmission" such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal, the WHO "would like to stop all transmission within eight weeks".

Meanwhile, AP reported from Dakar on Wednesday that at least $600m was needed to fight the Ebola outbreak.

The top priority is providing protective gear to health workers in the affected areas and ensuring that they receive hazard pay, said David Nabarro, who is co-ordinating the UN response to the unprecedented outbreak.

Echoing the WHO, American officials on Wednesday warned that Ebola is likely to spread to still more countries.

"This is not an African disease. This is a virus that is a threat to all humanity," Gayle Smith, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director at the National Security Council told reporters during a telephone briefing.

The key to solving the outbreak will be implementing measures used in all previous outbreaks: isolating and treating the sick, monitoring their contacts for signs of disease and safely burying the dead, said Tom Kenyon, of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There is a window of opportunity, but it's closing with each and every day that we delay in getting measures in place," he said.