C.D.C Warns Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within Four Months

A Red Cross team removed the body of a woman believed to have died of Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia, last week. Officials urge caution in handling victims’ bodies
Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.
In the worst-case scenario, the two countries could have a total of 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.
In the best-case model, the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. Success would require conducting safe funerals at which no one touches the bodies, and treating 70 percent of patients in settings that reduce the risk of transmission. The report said the proportion of patients now in such settings was about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.
The caseload projections are based on data from August, but Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, said the situation appeared to have improved since then because more aid had begun to reach the region.
“My gut feeling is, the actions we’re taking now are going to make that worst-case scenario not come to pass,” Dr. Frieden said in a telephone interview. “But it’s important to understand that it could happen.”
Outside experts said the modeling figures were in line with estimates by others in the field.
“It’s a nice job,” said Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida who has also done computer modeling of the epidemic. “It summarizes the extent of the problem and what has to happen to deal with it.”
Bryan Lewis, an epidemiologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, agreed that the estimates were reasonable, perhaps even a bit low compared with those generated by other models. He said that if some of the latest data from the World Health Organization is plugged into the C.D.C. model, “the very large numbers of estimated cases are, unfortunately, even larger.”
The current official case count is 5,843, including 2,803 deaths, according to the W.H.O.
The C.D.C. estimates omit Guinea, which has been hit hard, because the epidemic struck in waves that could not be modeled.
The W.H.O. published its own revised estimates of the outbreak on Monday, predicting more than 20,000 cases by Nov. 2 if control does not improve. That figure is more conservative than the one from the C.D.C., but the W.H.O. report also noted that many cases were unreported and said that without effective help, the three most affected countries would soon be reporting thousands of cases and deaths per week. It said its projections were similar to those from the C.D.C.
The W.H.O. report also raised, for the first time, the possibility that the disease would not be stopped but could become endemic in West Africa, meaning that it could become a constant presence there.
President Obama’s promise last week to send 3,000 military personnel to Liberia and to build 17 hospitals there, each with 100 beds, was part of the solution, Dr. Frieden said. But it was not clear when those hospitals would be ready, or who would staff them.
Dr. Frieden said the Defense Department had already delivered parts of a 25-bed unit that would soon be set up to treat health workers who become infected, a safety measure he said was important to help encourage health professionals to volunteer. He said that more aid groups were also arriving in the region to set up treatment centers, and that a “surge” of help would “break the back of the epidemic.”

Author: News Editor

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