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We'll beat Ebola virus by end of 2015, vows UN

By AP Reporter

The Ebola outbreak will end this year, the head of the UN team fighting the disease has said.

Outgoing chief Anthony Banbury said the number of Ebola cases would be brought down to zero by the end of 2015, but admitted that the defeat of the virus was "not close".

"We are engaged in an epic battle," he said.

The virus has killed nearly 8,000 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where the disease started in December 2013.

Mr Banbury admitted his three-month mission had failed to hit its target of 100% safe burials and treatment of 70% of infected people.

However, he praised international efforts and insisted "the global response to the Ebola crisis has been extremely successful".

"Going forward it's going to be extremely hard for us to bring it down to zero [cases], but that is what we will do," he said, adding: "I believe we will end Ebola in 2015."

Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation said the number of people infected by the virus in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had passed 20,000.

The WHO said more than a third of the 20,000 cases in West Africa were in Sierra Leone, which has become the worst-hit country. The World Health Organisation has said about 8,000 people are thought to have died last year from the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

The Geneva-based body said the number of confirmed, probable and suspected deaths from the disease in the three most affected countries reached 7,989 by December 31.

The United Nations agency said 2,827 deaths had been reported in Sierra Leone, 3,423 in Liberia and 1,739 in Guinea.

It said those countries had a total of 20,381 cases to date.

The current outbreak has also claimed 15 lives elsewhere. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood.

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