dertsThe magnitude of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has been underestimated, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, warning that unknown numbers of people were dying in “shadow zones” unrecorded by medical authorities. Official estimates place the number of known, suspected and probable cases of Ebola at nearly 2,500, just over half of which have been fatal. However, in a detailed assessment of the true extent of the crisis, the WHO described a bleak situation in which “invisible caseloads of patients… are not being detected by the surveillance system.” Recording of Ebola cases has been hindered for a number of reasons, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have seen the worst of the epidemic, the WHO said in its latest situation report. Families are hiding infected loved ones, on the assumption that, because Ebola has no cure, it would be better for them to die at home rather than in hospital. However, effective treatment can improve chances of survival – a message that health authorities have been struggling to communicate to increasingly fearful populations. Isolation wards for Ebola patients are instead being viewed by many Africans as an “incubator for the disease”, the WHO said. Many medical facilities throughout the affected countries have closed, in many cases because medical staff have fled.  More