The World Health Organization says the number of people sickened with Ebola has passed 16,000.

The data shows that the death toll in the epidemic is nearing 7,000.

The world's largest-ever Ebola outbreak is battering the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Data released late Friday by the U.N. health agency showed that there have been 16,169 cases in those three countries. There have also been around three dozen cases elsewhere.

Liberia has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths, but the rate of infection is slowing there. The disease is now spreading fastest in Sierra Leone.