James Giahyue / Reuters

West Africa sees spike in Ebola cases as decline stalls, WHO says

News follows US announcement of withdrawal of troops sent to affected countries

West Africa recorded 144 new confirmed cases of Ebola in the week to Feb. 8, the second consecutive weekly increase, highlighting lingering challenges to end the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Guinea reported 65 new cases, Sierra Leone reported 76 new confirmed cases and Liberia reported three new cases, the WHO said in its latest update.

"Despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices, and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled," WHO said.

A year-long Ebola outbreak has now killed at least 9,177 people among the 22,894 cases recorded, mainly in the three worst-affected West African nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that nearly all of the 1,300 U.S. troops sent to affected West African countries would be brought home. At the height of the epidemic 2,800 soldiers military personnel were deployed there.

"We have risen to the challenge," Obama, who was criticized for his slow response to the epidemic last fall, said. "We have made enormous progress in just a few months."

While in West Africa, troops set up logistics and trained 1,500 African health care workers, Obama said. Though the military stage of the mission is over, the president said, "Our work is not done, our mission is not complete."

Because a single new case can lead to another flare-up of the virus,100 troops will remain in West Africa after April 30, according to Obama, who thanked the scientists, doctors and troops who battled the virus in recent months.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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