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Increase in weekly Ebola cases: WHO

The past week has seen the highest increase of Ebola cases since the outbreak in west Africa began, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today.

The UN health agency warned that the outbreak in west Africa is accelerating and could eventually infect as many as 20,000 people.

So far, it has killed more than 1,500 of the 3,000 people it has affected in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to an official count.

The UN health agency said that it assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.

In a detailed report on the outbreak today, the WHO said more than 500 cases were recorded over the past week, by far the worst toll of any week so far.

The vast majority of the cases were in Liberia but the agency said it was also the highest number of cases in one week for Guinea and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has also recorded a small number of cases.

"There are serious problems with case management and infection prevention and control," the report said. "The situation is worsening in Liberia and Sierra Leone."

Neither of those countries has enough space in treatment centres to handle the increasing number of cases, it said.

The region where the three most affected countries meet remains the epicentre of the outbreak, the WHO said. Nearly two-thirds of all cases have been reported in that area.

The agency said that the spread of the virus into densely-populated cities is causing concern. Monrovia, Liberia's capital, has been particularly hard hit.

Senegal recorded its first case of Ebola today, the Ministry of Health said.

The infected person is a young man from Guinea, health minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters.

The outbreak that has killed more than 1,500 people began last year in Guinea, which shares a border with Senegal.

Since then, the disease has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. At least 3,000 people have contracted the virus.

The arrival of the disease in Senegal, whose capital Dakar is a major transportation hub for the region, is likely to increase fears about the disease's uncontrolled spread even further.

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