Liberia expands Ebola treatment in capital

MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberian authorities expanded Ebola treatment centers in the capital Saturday to cope with increasing numbers of patients, while two more airlines announced they were halting flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the deepening crisis.

Kenya Airways and regional carrier Gambia Bird join a number of other airlines in temporarily cancelling flights to avoid transmitting the disease beyond the four countries already affected in West Africa.

The Kenya Airways flights will stop as of midnight Tuesday, said Titus Naikuni, the chief executive officer of Kenya Airways. The decision was made with guidance from the country’s health ministry, Naikuni said.

Gambia Bird said it had stopped flying to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

“The decision has been taken in the light of international concern about the further spread of the Ebola virus in the West African sub-region, and with the aim of continuing to offer a safe and reliable service to all customers, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of passengers and crew,” the statement said.

Health experts have warned that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa may last another six months. At least 1,145 people have died across Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, and that may “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” the World Health Organization says.

New figures released on Friday showed that Liberia now has recorded more deaths – 413 – than any of the other affected countries.

On Saturday, a newly expanded, 34-bed Ebola treatment center was opened at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, health officials said.

Assistant health minister Tolbert Nyenswah told the Associated Press the new center “will start admitting patients this evening or Monday.”