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GENEVA — The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are now known, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

A new plan by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. If that's accurate, it suggests there could be up to 12,000 cases already.

"This far outstrips any historic Ebola outbreak in numbers. The largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases," Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO's assistant director-general for emergency operations, told reporters.

"What we are seeing today, in contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks: multiple hotspots within these countries — not a single, remote forested area, the kind of environments that have been tackled in the past. And then not multiple hotspots within one country, but international disease."

Read Friday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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