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New Chief in the UN Fight Against Ebola Expresses Concern

FILE - A health care worker dons protective gear before entering an Ebola treatment center in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 16, 2014.
FILE - A health care worker dons protective gear before entering an Ebola treatment center in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 16, 2014.

The new U.N. official in the fight against Ebola said he worries that successes in treating the deadly disease may provoke a “degree of complacency.”

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, spoke to reporters in the Liberian capital Monrovia Wednesday during his first trip to the Ebola stricken region.

Ahmed described his first impression of the situation as “mixed.” He said there is certainly still a lot to be done for Liberia to be declared free of Ebola.

In Liberia, Ahmed met with the country's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Liberia along with Sierra Leone and Guinea are the countries hardest hit by Ebola.

Ahmed said the response to Ebola is and should be a "government driven battle" as it is "about their people, about the fate of their country."

The World Health Organization said Ebola has killed 8,235 people worldwide since the current outbreak began in West Africa.

The U.N. agency said Wednesday that over the last year, there have been 20,747 known cases of the deadly virus with the worst of the crisis occurring in Sierra Leone.

According to WHO, the situation in the West African country “may have leveled off,” but the former British colony remains “by far the worst affected country at present.”

The U.N. said that for the week that ended January 4, there were 248 new confirmed Ebola cases in Sierra Leone. Officials say the west of the country remains the area of most intense transmission.

"There are signs that case incidence may have leveled off in Sierra Leone, although with 248 new confirmed cases reported in the week to 4 January 2015, it remains by far the worst-affected country at present," the WHO said.

Cases are still underreported and unevenly spread in West Africa. The virus is spreading most rapidly in western Sierra Leone, where the capital, Freetown, reported 93 of the new confirmed cases, the WHO said.

"An increasing emphasis will be put on the rapid deployment of smaller treatment facilities to ensure that capacity is matched with demand in each area," the WHO said.

Health workers have been particulary affected. Overall, 838 health workers have been infected, and 495 have died, the WHO said.

On Thursday, the WHO will host a meeting of representatives from major drugmakers, health authorities in affected countries and national regulatory agencies to assess clinical trials of experimental vaccines against Ebola. GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and NewLink Genetics, and Johnson & Johnson are currently testing experimental vaccines.

Reported case incidence is on the decline in Liberia, while in Guinea, transmission rates are fluctuating.

The other nations where at least one Ebola case has been diagnosed include Britain, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.