State Dept Ebola chief warns it may get much worse by Fortune Editors @FortuneMagazine October 17, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons An Ebola epidemic largely confined to three West African countries could spread to neighboring countries when the rainy season ends next month, warns a top State Department official. In an interview with Fortune senior editor Nina Easton, Ambassador Nancy Powell, newly appointed chief of the State Department’s Ebola unit, said heavy rains have curtailed travel—now largely confining the epidemic to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But when the seasons change, West Africans will cross borders and bridges to get to markets in neighboring towns and villages, taking the deadly virus with them. Powell’s warning underscores the urgency to U.S.-led efforts to break the back of the raging epidemic in West Africa, where new cases are expected to reach as high as 10,000 a week during this same time period. In this race against time, the veteran ambassador is the Obama administration’s chief diplomatic lobbyist—working the phones to convince financially-strapped European leaders to commit more money, troops and health care workers to a $1 billion U.S.-led effort combining military presence and humanitarian aid. Private donations by Bill and Melinda Gates ($50 million), Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg ($25 million), and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ($26.5 million) are injecting much needed fast cash into the crisis. Powell singled out Allen’s financing of a program to medevac health-workers who contract the disease to qualified hospitals–considered critical to convincing outsiders to come help. Watch the interview here: Update 10/20/2014: A previous version of this article had an incorrect amount for the donation from Paul Allen. This has now been corrected.