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Ebola death rate up to 70%; WHO warns cases could skyrocket in weeks

Ebola death rate up to 70%; WHO warns cases could skyrocket in weeks
Mercy Kennedy, 9, in Monrovia, Liberia, whose mother died of Ebola. (Jerome Delay / Associated Press)

The death rate in the Ebola outbreak has risen to 70% and there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week in two months, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.

WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward gave the grim figures during a news conference in Geneva. Previously, WHO had estimated the death rate at around 50%.

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Aylward said the 70% death rate was "a high mortality disease" in any circumstance and that the U.N. health agency was still focused on trying to get sick people isolated and provide treatment as early as possible.

He told reporters that if the world's response to the Ebola crisis isn't stepped up within 60 days, "a lot more people will die" and there will be a huge need to deal with the spiraling numbers of cases.

For the last four weeks, there's been about 1,000 new cases per week — including suspected, confirmed and probable cases, he said, adding that the U.N. health agency's goal is to get 70% of cases isolated within two months to reverse the outbreak.

WHO increased its Ebola death toll tally to 4,447 people on Tuesday, nearly all of them in West Africa, from 8,914 cases.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been hardest hit nations in the current outbreak. Aylward said WHO was very concerned about the continued spread of Ebola in the three countries' capital cities — Freetown, Conakry and Monrovia.

He said the agency was still focused on trying to treat Ebola patients, despite the huge demands on the broken health systems in West Africa.

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