GENEVA — The Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past 15 months could be halted by the summer, but only if international financial support is sustained, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
“This crisis can be stopped completely,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading the organization’s response to the epidemic, told reporters in Geneva. “It should be possible to stop transmission by the middle of the year.”
He cautioned, however, that “there’s a need for reinvestment and reinvigoration of the program if we are to get this finished.”
In the three hardest-hit countries in West Africa — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — the rate of new infections has fallen steeply from the peak of the epidemic, but in recent weeks it has leveled off in the range of 100 to 150 cases a week, Dr. Aylward said. Nearly all are now in Sierra Leone; the health authorities have not reported any new cases in Liberia in the past two weeks, nor in Guinea in the past 10 days.
He said that health workers now had the facilities they need to curb the epidemic and that they had developed tactics that had proved to work. The remaining challenge is to build trust in the communities where health workers still encounter resistance, Dr. Aylward said; until that happens, predicting the end of the crisis is “a bit of a crapshoot.”
To stay on track, the United Nations-led program fighting Ebola needs $400 million by the end of June, including $125 million for the World Health Organization, he said, adding that at the moment it has enough money in hand to continue only through the end of April.