- WHO chief warns virus could spread to other countries causing loss of life
- Says that Ebola is moving faster than their efforts to control it
- Added that the response to the virus had been 'woefully inadequate'
- Made the comments at a summit in Guinea to discuss the infection
- Around 700 people have died from the virus so far, with 1,201 reported cases
The World Health Organisation has warned that the deadly Ebola virus was spiralling out of control in West Africa and could spread to other countries causing catastrophic loss of life.
The warning came from the head of the WHO Margaret Chan who said that the epidemic was moving faster than their efforts to control it.
Dr Chan made the stark warning at a regional summit of the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the Guinean capital of Conakry, where she also said the response the virus had been 'woefully inadequate.'
Medical workers in Sierra Leone wear protective clothing while treating patients infected with the Ebola virus in Kenema District
A government worker in Liberia mixes disinfectant to spray the streets of Monrovia to try and bring the Ebola virus under control
Dr Margaret Chan arrives at Conakry airport in Guinea for talks with the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia about the Ebola virus
She explained: 'If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.
'It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks.
'Cases are occurring in rural areas which are difficult to access, but also in densely populated capital cities. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.'
However, she did emphasise that the general public is not at a high risk of infection.
The warning came from the head of the WHO Margaret Chan who said that the epidemic was moving faster than their efforts to control it
She added: 'Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes.
'We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.'
The leaders of the three countries at the summit hoped to organise the deployment of hundreds of extra medical personnel as part of a $100million emergency response to the epidemic, which has claimed more than 700 lives.
The outbreak, which has been described as the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of the disease with 1,201 Ebola cases reported in the three countries, starts with flu-like symptoms before evolving to cause catastrophic internal bleeding.
Dr Chan's warning comes as Sierra Leone today declared a public health emergency to tackle the deadly virus and called in security forces to quarantine infected areas.
Soldiers have been deployed to the streets of Liberia to prevent panic as fears spread about the deadly virus
Health officials in the U.S. have warned Americans not to travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea
President Ernest Bai Koroma said the measures resembled a tough anti-Ebola package announced by neighbouring Liberia last night.
Mr Koroma also announced he was cancelling a visit to Washington for a U.S.-Africa summit next week because of the crisis.
The first cases of Ebola emerged in Guinea in March, and later spread across the borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks of the virus in previous years had occurred in other parts of Africa.
The virus has infected three African capitals with international airports and officials are trying to step up screening of passengers.
Medical vehicles in Liberia drive through the streets with posters on them saying 'Ebola must go' as the virus spreads
The outbreak has been described as the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of the disease, with 1,201 Ebola cases reported
Experts say the risk of travellers contracting it is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the WHO. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.
In Liberia, authorities say 28 out of the 45 health workers who have contracted the