BETHESDA, Md. (WJZ)—More than 4,000 people have now died in the worst Ebola outbreak in history, and officials with the United Nations say the number of cases is doubling every three to four weeks in West Africa. Now the first human trials of an Ebola vaccine are underway.

Meghan McCorkell has more on how local doctors are helping.

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Doctors with the University of Maryland are conducting those trials, hoping to get a vaccine on the fast track.

With people dying daily from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, leaders are sounding the alarm.

“Without your quick response, a tragedy unforeseen in modern times will threaten the well-being and compromise security of people everywhere,” said President Ernest Bai Koroma, of Sierra Leone.

More than 8,000 people now have confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola.

Health officials say a greater response is needed.

“We have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC.

This week, human trials began on an Ebola vaccine in the African nation of Mali.

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Dr. Myron Levine of the University of Maryland School of Medicine is part of an international team leading the vaccine trials. He spoke with WJZ via Skype.

“We’re optimistic. And even more importantly we’re hopeful because the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is such an unmitigated public health disaster,” Levine said.

The first doses of the vaccine have been given to health care workers in Mali, which borders some of the hardest hit countries in the Ebola epidemic.

Twenty people at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda are also being given the trial vaccine.

Officials are quick to warn: more research is needed before its available worldwide.

“You can’t just give it out. You have to determine if it works. That will likely take place in the first quarter of 2015,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But time is of the essence, as the death toll continues to rise.

If approved, the vaccine will first be given to healthcare workers, who have the highest risk of contracting infected with Ebola.

More than 300 American troops are currently in Liberia helping build Ebola treatment centers and bringing supplies to those in need.

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