DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa is "totally out of control," according to a senior official for Doctors Without Borders, who says the medical group is stretched to the limit in responding.
The outbreak has caused more deaths than any other of the disease, said another official with the medical charity. Ebola has been linked to more than 330 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.
International organizations and the governments involved need to send in more health experts and increase public education messages about how to stop the spread of the disease, Bart Janssens, the director of operations for the medical group in Brussels, told The Associated Press on Friday.
"The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave," Janssens said. "And, for me, it is totally out of control."
The Ebola virus, which causes internal bleeding and organ failure, spreads through direct contact with infected people. There is no cure or vaccine, so containing an outbreak focuses on supportive care for the ill and isolating them to limit the spread of the virus.
The current outbreak, which began in Guinea either late last year or early this year, had appeared to slow before picking up pace again in recent weeks, including spreading to the Liberian capital for the first time.
"This is the highest outbreak on record and has the highest number of deaths, so this is unprecedented so far," said Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders.
According to the WHO, the highest previous death toll was in the first recorded Ebola outbreak in Congo in 1976, when 280 deaths were reported. Because Ebola often touches remote areas and the first cases sometimes go unrecognized, it is likely that there are deaths that go uncounted during outbreaks.
The multiple locations of the current outbreak and its movement across borders make it one of the "most challenging Ebola outbreaks ever," Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, said earlier in the week.
But Janssens' description of the Ebola outbreak was even more alarming, and he warned that the countries involved had not recognized the gravity of the situation. He criticized WHO for not doing enough to prod local leaders; the U.N. health agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.