- Centers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are overwhelmed, World Health Organization says
- At least 2,400 people have died in the 3 countries; other cases seen in Nigeria and Senegal
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joins the fight against the West Africa outbreak
- Money will be used to purchase supplies and scale up emergency operations
The number of new Ebola cases is growing faster than the ability of health officials to handle them, the head of the World Health Organization said Friday.
"In the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in the Ebola-specific treatment centers," said Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general. "Today, there is not one single bed available for the treatment of an Ebola patient in the entire country of Liberia."
This week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will donate $50 million to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
At least 2,400 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the outbreak has been concentrated, Chan said. Cases have also been reported in nearby Nigeria and Senegal.
The foundation says the money will be used to enable international aid organizations and national governments "to purchase badly needed supplies and scale up emergency operations in affected countries."
This is considered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. The World Health Organization said Monday the rapid spread of the virus in Liberia shows no sign of slowing.
"The number of new cases is increasing exponentially," the WHO said, calling the situation a "dire emergency with ... unprecedented dimensions of human suffering."
Taxis packed with families who fear they've contracted the deadly virus crisscross the Liberian capital, searching for a place where they can be treated, the WHO said.
"As soon as a new Ebola treatment facility is opened, it immediately fills to overflowing with patients," the U.N. group said.
To help ease some of the burden on West Africa's already overtaxed medical system, the United States announced Tuesday it will send $10 million in additional funds. That's in addition to the $100 million Washington has already sent to help fight the outbreak. USAID also announced it will make $75 million in extra funds available.
The new funds will pay for transportation and support to send 100 more health care workers to help fight the epidemic. The WHO and several nonprofit agencies on the ground have repeatedly called for the international community to send additional trained help.
USAID funding has already provided 130,000 sets of personal protective equipment, 50,000 hygiene kits and 1,000 new beds.
USAID has created a website where trained nurses, physician assistants and doctors who want to help can sign up.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama said the Ebola outbreak needs to be a "national security priority." He told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the U.S. military could help set up isolation units and provide security for public health workers.
"If we don't make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there's the prospect then that the virus mutates. It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States," he said.