Liberia, the country worst-hit by an Ebola epidemic, may be seeing a decline in the spread of the virus, though the battle to contain the outbreak is far from won, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward said the number of burials and new admissions had fallen and there was a plateau in laboratory-confirmed cases, though he cautioned against overly optimistic conclusions.
"All the data point in the same direction," he told a news conference. "Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus? Yes, we are seeing slowing rate of new cases, very definitely."
"We're seeing a reversal of that rapid rate of increase to the point that there seems to be a decline right now," he said.
The WHO comments were echoed by Jeremy Farrar, director of charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust. He too urged caution and said the next few weeks will be crucial to locking in potential gains made through increased international support.
"We're going through a very, very important phase. For the first time during this epidemic I think we will look on the last week as the week we put in place the jigsaw puzzle that changes the epidemic," he told Reuters.
"I'm not saying the epidemic has been affected at all yet. It hasn't. But I do think the pieces are in place now that if we live up to those ... it will be enough to turn this epidemic around," he said.
Almost 300 fewer people have died from Ebola in Liberia than previously thought, while more than 200 have been added to Sierra Leone's toll, the WHO said. The new data and an overall toll of 4,922 came after WHO cleaned its data.