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WHO: Ebola disease caseload could reach 20,000

  • People stand on the shoreline near a sign reading 'NO DUMPING', amongst rubbish at West Point, a area heavily effected by the  Ebola virus, with residence not being  allowed to leave West Point,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia — a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

    People stand on the shoreline near a sign reading 'NO DUMPING', amongst rubbish at West Point, a area heavily effected by the Ebola virus, with residence not being allowed to leave West Point, as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia — a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

  • Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point by boat, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

    Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point by boat, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area, as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

  • People gather as officials hand out food aid at West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

    People gather as officials hand out food aid at West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area, as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

  • Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

    Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

  • The doctor helping oversee the treatment, Stefan Schmiedel,, left, and  Internal Medicine  Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf,  Ansgar Lohse, attend a press conference in the hospital in Hamburg, Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014. A scientist who was infected with Ebola while working for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone began receiving treatment Wednesday in a Hamburg hospital after being flown overnight to Germany. The man, whose name and condition are being withheld for patient privacy reasons, is being treated at the U.N. agency’s request in city’s University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, home to the well-known Bernhard-Nocht Clinic for Tropical Medicine.   (AP Photo/dpa, Georg Wendt)

    The doctor helping oversee the treatment, Stefan Schmiedel,, left, and Internal Medicine Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Ansgar Lohse, attend a press conference in the hospital in Hamburg, Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014. A scientist who was infected with Ebola while working for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone began receiving treatment Wednesday in a Hamburg hospital after being flown overnight to Germany. The man, whose name and condition are being withheld for patient privacy reasons, is being treated at the U.N. agency’s request in city’s University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, home to the well-known Bernhard-Nocht Clinic for Tropical Medicine. (AP Photo/dpa, Georg Wendt)

  • In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014,  Red Cross workers walk through a section of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with residents not allowed to leave as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are now known, the World Health Organization said Thursday. A new plan released by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

    In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, Red Cross workers walk through a section of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with residents not allowed to leave as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are now known, the World Health Organization said Thursday. A new plan released by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

  • Armed Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

    Armed Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area, as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

  • Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

    Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

  • People stand on the shoreline near a sign reading 'NO DUMPING', amongst rubbish at West Point, a area heavily effected by the  Ebola virus, with residence not being  allowed to leave West Point,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia — a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
  • Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point by boat, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
  • People gather as officials hand out food aid at West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
  • Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)
  • The doctor helping oversee the treatment, Stefan Schmiedel,, left, and  Internal Medicine  Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf,  Ansgar Lohse, attend a press conference in the hospital in Hamburg, Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014. A scientist who was infected with Ebola while working for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone began receiving treatment Wednesday in a Hamburg hospital after being flown overnight to Germany. The man, whose name and condition are being withheld for patient privacy reasons, is being treated at the U.N. agency’s request in city’s University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, home to the well-known Bernhard-Nocht Clinic for Tropical Medicine.   (AP Photo/dpa, Georg Wendt)
  • In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014,  Red Cross workers walk through a section of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with residents not allowed to leave as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are now known, the World Health Organization said Thursday. A new plan released by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
  • Armed Liberian soldiers patrol the seaside of West Point, an area that has been hit hard by the Ebola virus, with local residents not allowed to leave the West Point area,  as government forces clamp down on movement to prevent the spread of Ebola, in  Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Health officials in Liberia said the other two recipients of ZMapp in Liberia, a Congolese doctor and a Liberian physician's assistant, have recovered. Both are expected to be discharged from an Ebola treatment center on Friday, said Dr. Moses Massaquoi, a Liberian doctor with the treatment team. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
  • Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, speaks to the media during a press conference about the WHO briefing on the Ebola roadmap. It outlines all actions that need to be taken by affected countries and partners to bring an end to the largest and most complex recorded Ebola outbreak in history, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, August 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could grow six times larger to infect as many as 20,000 people, the World Health Organization said yesterday. The U.N. health agency unveiled a new road map for containing the virus, and scientists are fast-tracking efforts to find a treatment or vaccine.

Ebola has menaced Africa for 40 years, but previously struck in remote villages and was contained fairly quickly. This time, it has spread to major cities in four countries, provoking unrest as whole neighborhoods and towns have been sealed to the outside.

An experimental vaccine developed by the U.S. government and GlaxoSmithKline will be tested on humans starting next week, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced yesterday. The NIH trial will use healthy adult volunteers in Maryland, and British experts will simultaneously test the same vaccine in healthy people in the U.K., Gambia and Mali.

Preliminary results on the vaccine’s safety – not its effectiveness – could be available in months.

Scientists also announced that they have mapped the genetic code of this strain of Ebola to better understand how it kills. In a study published yesterday in the journal Science, researchers traced an explosion of cases in this outbreak to a single funeral in Guinea in May.

They hope to use DNA mapping to track mutations that could become more worrisome the longer the outbreak lasts, and make a difference in the how doctors spot and fight the disease as vaccines are developed.

The outbreak has now killed at least 1,552 people among 3,069 reported cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, and the real caseload in urban areas could be two to four times higher. Meanwhile, an entirely separate Ebola outbreak has killed 13 of 42 people sickened in a remote area of Congo, in Central Africa, the agency said.

With about a 50 percent mortality rate among those known to be infected, the overall death toll could reach 10,000 in the worst-case scenario.

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