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UN chief visits Ebola-hit nations

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Liberia on its efforts to combat Ebola during his second visit since the start of the outbreak that has killed more than 6,900 people in West Africa.

"We have reasons to be cautiously optimistic that this terrible outbreak can be defeated," said Mr Ban at a press conference with Liberia's president Ellen Sirleaf.

"Our response strategy is working - where people are gaining access to treatment, where contacts are being traced, burials are becoming safer, communities are mobilising to protect themselves," he said.

Nearly 3,300 of the Ebola deaths have been in Liberia, where health officials say the spread of the virus has shown signs of slowing in recent weeks.

Concern has grown about the situation in neighbouring Sierra Leone, where Ebola is now spreading the fastest in the region.

"Just one case can trigger an epidemic and we have a long way to go," said Mr Ban.

His visit to Liberia comes on the eve of crucial mid-term senatorial elections. Some 139 candidates are vying for 15 seats in the senate, including former soccer star George Weah and Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberia's president.

Health authorities have deployed 4,700 thermometers to voting sites around the country to take voters' temperatures as people go to the polls.

Authorities also have deployed 10,000 bottles of sanitisers to polling sites amid concerns about Ebola.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick people, and one of the main symptoms is a high fever.

Some critics have questioned whether the polls can be credible at a time the country is battling such a deadly epidemic.

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