ELIZABETH JACKSON: Medics are warning that the Ebola outbreak in
west Africa is out of control.
Our Africa correspondent, Martin Cuddihy, reflects on the deadly virus.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: The grim warnings and updates keep coming. It's a never-ending stream of bad news about Ebola.
The World Health Organization has vastly underestimated the scale of the outbreak. Medicines Sans Frontiers says the speed of the epidemic is outstripping the authorities trying to stop it.
The man who discovered Ebola in 1976 says it's a perfect storm in West Africa at the moment.
And now a top US official says the outbreak will only get worse. He's warning an unprecedented response will be needed to bring it under control.
The disease has now claimed almost 2,000 lives.
Most of us have lost someone we love. In parts of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, entire families have been wiped out.
Children who have lost their parents are being referred to as "Ebola Orphans".
It's an awful, but an important story and it's a difficult one to cover.
The region has all been all but locked down. Land borders have been sealed and flights have been cancelled. There is no way to fly from Kenya to Sierra Leone, Guinea or the hardest hit country, Liberia.
Kenyan authorities have grounded all of those flights and you can't go through South Africa because the same limitations are in place there.
During the week, Nigerian health authorities said they were getting the upper hand. The health ministry said there was only one infected patient remaining in hospital. But since then a doctor has died in the city of Port Harcourt, the first time a case of Ebola has been recorded outside of Lagos.
Schools in Nigeria will remain closed until at least mid-October to ensure the virus doesn't spread and to give staff time to train how to deal with suspected cases.
This current outbreak is killing somewhere between 55 and 60 per cent of those who get the virus.
The gory symptoms and high death rate prompt fear among those who are at risk of catching the disease and also among those who have to go and cover it.
For a 7.30 story on how authorities are dealing with the outbreak, we visited the only laboratory in East Africa that can test for Ebola.
The doctor doing the testing showed us how he protects himself. It took him about 20 minutes to put on all the protective gear. That was for a gown, an apron, two layers of gloves, goggles, face mask, hood and even booties to ensure the virus has no way of touching human skin.
It's a lengthy process and it's an example of the precautions needed.
But perhaps the scariest thing about Ebola is that you can't see it. In a way, it's scarier than reporting from a war zone.
There, you can see where the troops are. You can see where the muzzles are pointed and you can see where the explosions detonate. You can avoid things you can see.
But Ebola is an invisible threat - at least until the symptoms start to manifest - and that's one of the reasons why it's so scary.
It's certainly not scary for the scale of the deaths. This is the worst outbreak of Ebola on record and not even 2,000 people have been killed.
To put it in perspective: Dengue Fever is another tropical disease and it kills about 20,000 people annually. Measles kills more than 120,000 people every year. But those diseases can be treated.
For Ebola there is no cure. You die in an isolation ward, with no friends and no family holding your hand.
I think the gruesome nature and an isolated death combine to make Ebola perhaps the scariest disease on the planet today.
No one wants to die with no friends and no family from organ failure, because they have lost so much blood through every orifice in their body. It's a horrible, horrible way for a life to end.
But there is hope. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies around the world are scrambling to find a way to treat Ebola. No doubt they are scrambling because of humanitarian and, perhaps, financial motivation.
All this comes as the World Health Organization warns that every country on the planet should be prepared for the spread of Ebola. The UN health agency has allocated $100 million for a plan to contain the disease, but it needs another $350 million.
A lot of that money will be used to bolster the health care systems in the countries already battling the virus and even the most optimistic authorities believe it will be several months before it's under control. Most realistic estimates say it will be well into 2015 before it happens.
All of which means I will be spending plenty more of my time focussing on, if not the most deadly, then perhaps the most frightening disease we have ever seen.
This is Martin Cuddihy for Correspondents Report.