More than 26,000 people have been infected with Ebola since the outbreak began and more than 10,800 have died, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
In all, 26,079 people have contracted the disease since the current outbreak began 16 months ago and 10,823 of them have died — almost all in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The latest WHO figures, from the week leading to April 19, include 33 new confirmed cases — 21 in Guinea, 12 in Sierra Leone and none in Liberia. That compares to 37 new confirmed cases the week before, and 30 the week before that.
The U.N. health body said that while new confirmed cases appeared to have stagnated, increased efforts to stop transmission of the deadly virus were needed.
"The decline in confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease has halted over the last three weeks," the WHO said in its latest report. "To accelerate the decline towards zero cases will require stronger community engagement, improved contact tracing and earlier case identification."
The call for community engagement comes amid sentences of life in prison for 11 people accused of killing eight Ebola health workers and journalists last year in Guinea, in the village of Womey, located over 560 miles from the capital Conakry.
The killings happened when the delegation visited in September to raise awareness about how to combat Ebola. The group was attacked by a mob armed with knives and stones.
Authorities have struggled to overcome widespread distrust, misinformation and stigma among residents, particularly in isolated areas, which have complicated efforts to contain the highly contagious disease.
Meanwhile, an experimental Ebola drug successfully cured all three monkeys intentionally infected with the virus, scientists reported on Wednesday in a study published in the journal Nature.
Although other experimental treatments appeared to help Ebola patients last year, especially in the United States, those one-time uses cannot prove efficacy against the "Makona" strain responsible for the current Ebola outbreak, since patients' recovery might be due to other causes, scientists say.
Similarly, drugs, including one known as ZMapp, cured monkeys in lab experiments, but in a strain of Ebola different from that responsible for the current outbreak.
"We can't say for certain that an experimental drug that works against one strain will work in another, even if they're almost identical genetically," Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch, senior author of the study, told Reuters.
The WHO gave the green light last August for experimental drugs to be used in the current outbreak, the deadliest in history by far. Several drug candidates are being fast-tracked through the normally years-long trial process, and while many have shown promise, it was not known if they would work against the Makona strain specifically.