UN encourages travel to 'vibrant and alive' Ebola-hit West Africa, as death toll tops 5,000

David Nabarro, the senior UN coordinator for the international response to Ebola, poses during an interview with Reuters at the UN headquarters in New York Oct 8, 2014. Nabarro on Wednesday encouraged tourists to visit West Africa, saying Liberi
David Nabarro, the senior UN coordinator for the international response to Ebola, poses during an interview with Reuters at the UN headquarters in New York Oct 8, 2014. Nabarro on Wednesday encouraged tourists to visit West Africa, saying Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were "vibrant and alive" and that contact with infected people was largely avoidable. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The UN's Ebola czar on Wednesday encouraged tourists to visit West Africa, saying Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were "vibrant and alive" and that contact with infected people was largely avoidable.

"I want to encourage everybody to maintain travel, tourism even to places that have Ebola. There is just no reason not to go to Freetown, Monrovia, Conakry," David Nabarro, the UN coordinator on Ebola, told the UN Economic and Social Council.

"These are cities which have got fabulous places for tourism. They are unfortunately not very full at the moment."

His push came as the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa's three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, rose to 5,147 out of 14,068 cases as of Nov 9 end, according to the the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday.

"These countries are vibrant and alive," Nabarro said of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. "It is not appropriate to say 'Do not travel there because there is Ebola.'

"If you are going to get Ebola, you will get it through being in direct contact with somebody and that is mostly avoidable," he added.

Nabarro confirmed that the latest data points to a slowing of the outbreak, with fewer cases appearing each week, but he said there were parts of Liberia and Sierra Leone where "transmission is still fierce."

The United Nations have repeatedly urged airlines to maintain flights to the three Ebola-hit countries to allow desperately-needed teams of doctors, nurses and health workers to travel there.

Liberia's Ambassador to the United Nations welcomed signs of a decline in the spread of the virus, but urged caution.

"The disease is unpredictable and one infection can have a cascading effect," said Ambassador Marjon Kamara.

Said the WHO in a statement on Wednesday: "There is some evidence that case incidence is no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but steep increases persist in Sierra Leone.

"Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in this outbreak."

Some 421 new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the week to Nov 9, especially in the west and north, while there have been a total of four confirmed and probable cases in Mali and four deaths, it said.