WHO says West Africa Ebola outbreak still expanding geographically

Health workers in protective equipment handle a sample taken from the body of someone who is suspected to have died from Ebola virus, near Rokupa Hospital, Freetown on Oct 6, 2014. The number of Ebola cases in a vast outbreak in West Africa will
Health workers in protective equipment handle a sample taken from the body of someone who is suspected to have died from Ebola virus, near Rokupa Hospital, Freetown on Oct 6, 2014. The number of Ebola cases in a vast outbreak in West Africa will go over 9,000 this week and the epidemic is still expanding geographically in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA/LONDON (REUTERS) - The number of Ebola cases in a vast outbreak in West Africa will go over 9,000 this week and the epidemic is still expanding geographically in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward.

While there are signs of rates of infection slowing in some of the worst-hit areas, Aylward said the disease has now reached "more districts, counties and prefectures" than it had a month ago, and said case numbers would continue to rise.

"We will go over 9,000 cases this week," he told reporters from the WHO's Geneva headquarters.

"In certain areas were seeing disease coming down but that doesn't mean they're going to go to zero."

He stressed it would be "really, really premature" to read any success into the apparent slowing numbers in some areas.