Ebola response needs to "scale up," World Health Organization official says

Even though the number of Ebola cases around the world continues to rise, Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization (WHO) assistant director general of health security, said it's still possible to contain the outbreak.

"This is definitely an outbreak that can be contained. We know that this is not a mysterious disease. It's a severe disease, but we know it's not mysterious," Fukuda said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation." "What we need here is really to scale up. And so we know what to do, but WHO working with many different countries and many different partner organizations need help in making sure that we can do the things which are needed to stop transmission."

Fukuda said there are 1,835 cases of the virus reported so far and a few more than 900 deaths, a mortality rate between 55 and 60 percent. The virus has been reported predominantly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 13 cases in Nigeria. The death toll is expected to continue to rise.

"And if we continue to have cases then we will continue to have people dying from this disease. This is a severe infection, so we expect both numbers to increase over the coming weeks," Fukuda said.

The WHO is refraining from calling Ebola an "epidemic," referring to it instead as an "outbreak" because it can be contained. He said the organization does not support a broad travel ban.

"We do believe that people who have infection or people who are contacts of people who have infection, and are being monitored for the 21-day period, should not travel. But otherwise, we do not believe there should be a general ban on travel or trade," he said.

A major challenge confronting containment of the virus right now is weak health systems in the African countries that have reported the most cases. But Europe and North America have much stronger systems with better surveillance for this type of virus, meaning it is "very unlikely" they would see a significant outbreak of the disease there, Fukuda said.

"While it is possible for someone with an infection to travel to a number of countries, perhaps in Europe, perhaps to North America, like the United States, and it's possible that you may have some few cases associated with that... I think that in those countries which really have good health systems, good health professionals, good surveillance systems, it's very unlikely that you would have large outbreaks in the way that we're seeing them in these countries right now," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.