Huge drop in Ebola bodies across Liberia capital shows epidemic slowing: Red Cross

MONROVIA (AFP) - The Red Cross said Tuesday the weekly total of Ebola victims collected by its body disposal teams around the Liberian capital is falling dramatically, indicating a sharp drop in the spread of the epidemic.

The announcement appears at odds with an assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said last week transmission "remains intense" in the capitals of Liberia and neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Fayah Tamba, head of the Liberian Red Cross, said his workers collected 117 bodies last week from Montserrado county, which includes Monrovia - a drop of almost two-thirds from the high of 315 from September 15 to 21.

"I am sure you don't need a rocket scientist to tell you that the cases are dropping," he told private radio station Sky FM.

"What does this mean for us? It is very important, for all of us, that while it is true that these numbers are reducing, we want to use this time to call on every one of us to remain very engaged because Ebola is still in Liberia.

"We should not be complacent too early and start to celebrate because we still have this enemy in our corridors." Tamba gave week-by-week figures for collections which rise quickly from 60 on August 3 - but the weeks after the September peak show a consistent decline.

His conclusions jar with the WHO's update on the crisis on October 22, which reported that case numbers "continue to be under-reported, especially from the Liberian capital Monrovia".

Liberia has been worst hit by the outbreak, with 4,665 recorded cases and 2,705 deaths, according to the WHO, relying on figures however which are now 10 days out-of-date.

Liberia confirmed its first two Ebola cases at the end of March, but the outbreak was largely confined to the northern area bordering Guinea during the first few months of the crisis, until an explosion of cases in and around Monrovia.

Montserrado county, which accounts for more than a quarter of Liberia's population of around four million, now sees the vast majority of new cases and deaths.