DAKAR, Senegal — The radio announcement is chilling and blunt: “If I die, I want the deaths to stop with me.”

Dr. Desmond Williams continues: “I want to give my family the permission to request a safe and dignified, medical burial for me.”

The announcement is part of a campaign to urge Sierra Leoneans to abandon traditional burial practices, such as relatives touching or washing the dead bodies, that are fueling the spread of Ebola in the West African country.

Ebola has killed more than 2,000 people in Sierra Leone and unsafe burials may be responsible for up to 70 percent of new infections, say experts.

Officials are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to clamp down on traditional burials in Sierra Leone, where Ebola is now spreading fastest. The head of the Ebola response has even threatened to jail people who prepare the corpses of their loved ones.

Williams, a Sierra Leonean-American doctor who works for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took to the airwaves last month as part of efforts to encourage people to avoid dangerous burial practices. Now similar pledges have been made by prominent Sierra Leoneans, including a director for the Health Ministry, pop stars and radio DJ’s.

But old ways are hard to break. Many believe a traditional burial is necessary to make sure the dead don’t return to haunt the living. Funerals are important social occasions in the three most-affected countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. People often travel great distances to attend and bodies are typically washed and dressed by relatives or friends.

Unfortunately, these practices are the perfect breeding ground for Ebola: The bodies of Ebola victims can be up to 10 times more infectious than those of people living with the disease, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross.