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WHO: W. African Ebola Rate Underreported


FILE - Police cars accompany an ambulance carrying a man infected with Ebola in Liberia as it leaves the airport in Schkeuditz near Leipzig, eastern Germany, Oct. 9, 2014.

The United Nations has identified a medical worker who died after contracting Ebola working with the U.N. mission in Liberia. Sudanese national AbdelFadeel Mohammed Basheer, who died Tuesday in a German hospital, was a volunteer technician who was "dedicated" and "passionate" about his work. A World Health Organization official said that the death rate had risen to 70 percent.

The most deadly outbreak of the disease has claimed more than 4,000 victims, mostly in West Africa, with infections surfacing in one nurse in the United States and another in Spain.

WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward on Tuesday said the mortality rate previously had been estimated at 50 percent. He said the number of Ebola infections, now reported at 8,914, is likely to top 9,000 by later this week.

Liberia has the most suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola, with the total reaching at least 4,000. The virus has killed more than 2,300 people this year in the country, including 95 health workers.

Undercount likely

WHO also said the reported caseloads in the three most-affected countries inevitably underrepresent the actual number of infections. The organization grimly predicts the number of Ebola infections is likely to be 1.5 times higher than reported in Guinea, twice as high in Sierra Leone and 2.5 times higher in Liberia, Reuters reported.

In Germany, the 56-year-old Sudanese medical worker died overnight "despite intensive medical procedures," a representative of Leipzig's St. Georg hospital said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Mission in Liberia announced last week that its staff member had tested positive for Ebola on October 6. It said none of the 41 people who may have been in contact had shown any symptoms.

Confirmed Cases of Ebola in West Africa
Confirmed Cases of Ebola in West Africa

The medic was the second member of the U.N.'s mission, called UNMIL, to contract and die from Ebola, according to the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. state of Texas, the Dallas nurse who'd contracted Ebola while treating a Liberian man has received a transfusion from a recovered patient.

The plasma donation came from Dr. Kent Brantly, according to the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. The physician was a volunteer for the organization in Liberia, where he was infected. He was treated in the United States. His blood, which contains antibodies, has been used on two other patients.

Sierra Leone soldiers infected

Also Tuesday, a battalion of 800 Sierra Leone soldiers awaiting deployment to Somalia for peacekeeping duties instead was placed in quarantine after one member tested positive for Ebola, Reuters reported, citing military officials. The soldiers will be isolated and monitored for 21 days.

Liberia's Health Workers Association has demanded workers get extra hazard pay for potentially exposing themselves to Ebola. Despite calls for a strike, most health care workers reported to work on Monday.

Threat to governments, societies

WHO chief Margaret Chan said Monday that Ebola poses a threat to the governments and societies of West Africa.

In a statement at a health conference in the Philippines, Chan warned the number of cases is "rising exponentially" in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and said the outbreak shows how the world is ill-prepared for a severe and sustained public health emergency.

Other U.N. officials, including U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, have sounded similar warnings about the Ebola epidemic.