CDC: Ebola could infect 1.4 million in West Africa by the end of January

Sept. 29, 2014

The number of Ebola cases in West Africa could reach 1.4 million by the end of January if trends continue without an immediate and massive scale-up in response, according to a new estimate in a reportproduced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The recently released report is a tool the agency has developed to help with efforts to slow transmission of the epidemic and estimate the potential number of future cases. Researchers say the total number of cases is vastly underreported by a factor of 2.5 in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the three hardest-hit countries. Using this correction factor, researchers estimate that approximately 21,000 total cases will have occurred in Liberia and Sierra Leone by Sept. 30.

“Extrapolating trends to January 20, 2015, without additional interventions or changes in community behavior,” such as much-improved safe burial practices, the researchers estimate that the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could be between approximately 550,000 and 1.4 million. The findings in this report underscore the substantial public health challenges posed by the predicted number of future Ebola cases,” the researchers write. “If conditions continue without scale-up of interventions, cases will continue to double approximately every 20 days, and the number of cases in West Africa will rapidly reach extraordinary levels.”

CDC Director Tom Frieden injects one note of optimism: the estimates in the report don’t take into account actions taken or planned since August by the United States, other countries, and international agencies. Frieden says those actions will slow the spread of the epidemic. He told reporters that he does not believe the worst-case scenario “will come to pass.” Learn more from a Washington Post article.

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