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Aid agencies call for global response as WHO admits extraordinary measures are needed to contain disease amid rampant fear

The WHO has been criticized for a slow reaction to the Ebola epidemic, reports the Guardian.

The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed more than 1,000 people, has been vastly underestimated and will require “extraordinary measures, on a massive scale” if it is to be contained, the World Health Organization has warned.

The admission came as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), the medical charity, said the disease was spreading “faster than we can respond to”, and accused the WHO of being too slow to react.

The outbreak, which is the worst to date, has killed 1,069 people, with 1,975 cases recorded in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. However, the WHO fears the figures are unreliable.

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“Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” it said.

“The WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the UN system and others.”

Although some airlines have suspended flights to parts of west Africa, the WHO has stressed that the danger posed to air travelers remains low.

“Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne,” said Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, the WHO’s director of global capacity alert and response. “It can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease.”

Nuttall said the risk of Ebola transmission on flights was so low that the WHO did not consider airports to be a particular danger.