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Liberia's President warns Ebola outbreak could become a 'global crisis'

By Shelby Lin Erdman, CNN
updated 5:50 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warns Liberia's health system is under stress
  • NEW: Stay-at-home order for all nonessential government workers extended
  • NEW: Quarantine on Liberian township lifted on advice of health agency and others
  • Johnson Sirleaf wants bigger response from international community

(CNN) -- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Monday that the situation over the massive Ebola outbreak in her country "remains grave."

"Our health delivery system is under stress. The international community couldn't respond quickly," Johnson Sirleaf told CNN's Nima Elbagir in an interview.

Liberia is one of three nations, including Guinea and Sierra Leone, at the center of the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history. More than 1,500 people have died from the highly infectious virus since March.

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Members of a volunteer medical team wear protective gear before the burying of an Ebola victim Saturday, September 13, in Conakry, Guinea. Health officials say the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the deadliest ever. More than 4,700 cases have been reported since December, with more than 2,400 of them ending in fatalities, according to the World Health Organization. Members of a volunteer medical team wear protective gear before the burying of an Ebola victim Saturday, September 13, in Conakry, Guinea. Health officials say the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the deadliest ever. More than 4,700 cases have been reported since December, with more than 2,400 of them ending in fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
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Photos: Ebola outbreak in West Africa Photos: Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The World Health Organization has confirmed more than 3,000 cases and says the outbreak is still accelerating across West Africa.

Johnson Sirleaf also extended the stay-at-home order for all nonessential government employees for another month on Monday, underscoring the still dangerous health conditions the Ebola virus is causing in the country.

The order went into effect on July 30.

A statement on the President's website said the order is still necessary as efforts to contain the spread of the often fatal virus continue.

But Johnson Sirleaf sounded hopeful. She said conditions are slowly improving and that the world is responding to the epidemic, realizing the catastrophe that could unfold if the virus were to spread beyond Africa's borders.

In a positive sign over the weekend, the quarantine on the Township of West Point in the capital city of Monrovia was lifted on Saturday.

Johnson Sirleaf ordered the quarantine lifted "based on the advice of authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, as well as consultations with local and international partners," according to the online statement.

She explained that "the residents' cooperation and support over the period heightened the decision to lift the embargo."

But the President also warned a bigger response is still needed to prevent the spread of the infectious virus and contain the threat.

"People now don't see this as a Liberia or West Africa crisis. It could easily become a global crisis."

Johnson Sirleaf said the solution is for the global community to work in partnership with the affected nations to help them fight Ebola.

"We need that hope, we need that assistance. We need for the Liberians to know that this war can be won," Johnson Sirleaf said.

The West African nation of Senegal confirmed its first Ebola case last week, one week after closing its border with Guinea.

Senegal is the fifth country in the region to report the Ebola virus.

READ: Nine things to know about the killer disease

READ: What happens when you survive Ebola?

Nima Elbagir and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this story.

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