ABIDJAN/CONAKRY - West Africa recorded 128 new confirmed cases of Ebola in the week to Feb. 15, the first decrease in three weeks, but resistance in some communities threatened efforts to end the epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
Guinea reported 52 new confirmed cases, its first week-to-week decline since Jan. 25. Sierra Leone saw 74 new cases, 45 of which were in the capital Freetown. Liberia reported 2 new confirmed cases in the four days to Feb. 12.
Despite the encouraging data concerning new transmissions, health workers continued to face challenges, the WHO said in its weekly report.
"Each of the three countries reported an increase in security incidents related to the Ebola response compared with the previous week," the report said, referring to an upswing in the number of threats and violence against health workers.
Experts blame ignorance and fear for contributing to the disease's rapid early spread in West Africa in the worst outbreak on record. Violent attacks on healthcare facilities and workers and other incidents have continued despite large-scale education campaigns.
A source at Guinea's justice ministry told Reuters on Wednesday that 23 people have been convicted of violence against healthcare workers or Ebola treatment centers and given prison sentences ranging from six months to one year. Thirteen others have received suspended sentences.
Guinea and Sierra Leone also combined to report 84 unsafe burials, the WHO said. Over 40 new confirmed cases were identified through testing after individuals had died in the community, away from treatment facilities, raising the risk of further transmission.
West Africa's year-long Ebola outbreak has now killed at least 9,365 people from among 23,218 cases recorded, mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.