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Thursday, Oct 16, 2014

World

World pledges Ebola action as infections soar

AFP | Thursday, Oct 16, 2014

French Health Minister Marisol Touraine (C) attends a ministerial meeting on EU public health measures on the Ebola epidemic in Brussels, on October 16, 2014.

GENEVA - Ebola's escalating spread constitutes the worst global health emergency in years, world leaders warned, vowing to dramatically step up the response to the virus that has already killed nearly 4,500 people.

As of Sunday, 4,493 people had died out of a total of 8,997 cases in the outbreak now affecting seven countries, according to latest figures from the World Health Organisation.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on the world to do more, while insisting his own country would be "much more aggressive" in its response, after a second Texas hospital worker tested positive for the disease.

The fact that the newly infected Dallas caregiver took a domestic flight the day before she was quarantined magnified global fears about air travel.

Obama tried to ease those fears, but urged his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy to better coordinate their plans to combat the outbreak.

France said Thursday it will start carrying out health checks this weekend on all travellers arriving by plane from Guinea, one of the worst-hit nations.

Medics at Paris's main international Charles de Gaulle airport will take the temperature of passengers arriving from the daily flights still operating from the Guinean capital Conakry, Health Minister Marisol Touraine told AFP.

Worst public health emergency

Airports in Britain, Canada and the United States have already introduced stepped-up screening of travellers arriving from West Africa.

Senior US lawmakers overseeing homeland security also joined calls Wednesday for a temporary ban on all travel from West Africa.

The hemorrhagic virus has ravaged West African countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the start of the year, and outside the region, cases have begun surfacing in the United States and Spain.

The WHO warned this week that the infection rate could reach 10,000 a week by early December in a worst-case scenario.

"Leaders agreed that this was the most serious international public health emergency in recent years and that the international community needed to do much more and faster," British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said.

European Union health ministers are to meet in Brussels on Thursday, with member states under pressure to follow Washington in sending troops to West Africa to help fight the virus.

The UN Security Council urged the international community to "accelerate and dramatically expand" aid to the West African countries battling the epidemic.

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