The WHO reported about 4,818 cases of Ebola, but an agency expert acknowledged Thursday that the disease has likely killed far more than this. A warning thousands of bodies were likely missing has been issued.
"There are lots of missing deaths in this epidemic," Christopher Dye, WHO's strategy chief, told AFP, estimating that around 5,000 bodies could be missing from the count.
This assessment, he said, was based on the knowledge that the fatality rate in the epidemic centered in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone stands at about 70 percent.
Yet the WHO estimated Wednesday that a total of 13,042 people had so far been infected with the deadly virus, meaning many of the deaths must be going unrecorded.
Dye said the likely explanation was that many people were burying their Ebola dead in secret, perhaps to avoid having authorities interfere with burial customs like washing and touching the deceased widely blamed for much of the transmission.