Fears 'it will be impossible' to stop Ebola outbreak as death toll climbs

The UN special envoy on Ebola says the number of cases is probably doubling every three-to-four weeks and the response needs to be 20 times greater than it was at the beginning of October to control the rapid advance of the deadly virus.

David Nabarro warned the UN General Assembly that without the mass mobilisation of virtually every country, all donor organisations and many non-governmental groups to support the affected countries in West Africa, "it will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control, and the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever."

Nabarro, who is the Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease, said in his 35 years as a public health doctor dealing with many disease outbreaks and some pandemics he has never encountered a challenge like Ebola because the outbreak has moved from rural areas into towns and cities and is now "affecting a whole region and ... impacting on the whole world."

He said the United Nations, which is coordinating the global response, knows what needs to be done to catch up to and overtake Ebola's rapid advance, "and together we're going to do it."

"And our commitment to all of you is to achieve it within a matter of months - a few months," Nabarro told diplomats from most of the 193 UN member states.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson appealed "to all member states to act generously and swiftly".

"Speed is of the essence. A contribution within days is more important than a larger contribution within weeks."

The comments come as the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that 4,033 people have died in the outbreak - all but nine of them in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

WHO, the Geneva-based UN agency, says that, as of the end of Wednesday, a total of 8,399 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola had been reported from seven countries.