While the reported numbers for the largest Ebola outbreak in history are already pretty grim, according to the W.H.O., the true scope of the outbreak is actually much, much worse. As we noted earlier this week, the death toll has already reached and surpassed 1,000 with more than double that number reportedly infected with the deadly virus.
However, the World Health Organization says that the nature of the outbreak extends far beyond the statistics. From the W.H.O. website:
Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.
The U.N. agency added that it would be greatly stepping up its efforts to combat the spread of the disease in coming days:
WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and others.
Over at the The New York Times, Dr. Joanne Liu, who serves as the president of Doctors Without Borders, made this assessment of our collective understanding of the outbreak:
Many deaths have occurred within local communities, not at health centers, and the known deaths are “likely the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Liu said. “We are still having increasing numbers in most of the sites where we work.”
She added that the situation “is moving faster and deteriorating faster than we can respond.”
Making matters worse, as the AP reports, the outbreak is impacting the flow of goods and food, leaving as many as one million people hungry and crippling the livelihoods of hunters and farmers.
Even as the panic reaches its crescendo, there have been some maddening responses to the epidemic. Earlier this week in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan decided to fire about 16,000 doctors who were striking to receive better pay and improved working conditions. Elsewhere, the fake Ebola supplement industry is booming.
In related news, the USA National Basketball team has reportedly canceled a trip to Senegal that had been slated for later this month as public health emergencies relating to the outbreak extend across West Africa.