As doctors had feared earlier, the World Health Organization said this week that the death toll in the Ebola crisis in West Africa is probably much higher than reported.
While the current official numbers count 2,127 infections in Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and 1,145 deaths as of Wednesday, the actual numbers of infections and deaths are “vastly underestimated,” according to the WHO.
Watch "Ebola: Are We Next?" on Thursday, Sep. 18, starting at 9/8c on both Discovery Channel and Discovery Fit & Health.
The organization says it will partner with the countries where the virus is rampant in order to provide more accurate information. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing computer equipment to the hardest-hit countries that will allow real-time reporting of infections.
Accurate information is essential, the WHO said, to make supplies and health care officials available as needed, and to slow the spread of the virus. Ideally, the recent history of each person infected would be traced -- but that is far from the reality in West Africa, health workers have said.
WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan met with ambassadors from Geneva’s United Nations missions Thursday to identify the most urgent needs within countries.
Part of the reason this outbreak is trickier to stop is its location in urban areas, said doctors who had previously predicted that the disease was being under-reported.
And, there's no end in sight: "The outbreak is expected to continue for some time," the WHO said.
Photo: The Ebola virus. Credit: Wilkimedia Commons