The Ebola epidemic in West Africa will likely get far worse in the coming weeks and months unless international commitments are significantly and immediately increased, according to researchers led by Yale University.
The findings are published online first in the British journal the Lancet Infectious Diseases.
A team of seven scientists from Yale’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia developed a mathematical transmission model of the disease.
They applied it to Liberia’s most populous county, Montserrado, an area already hard hit.
The researchers determined that tens of thousands of new Ebola cases and deaths are likely by December 15 if the epidemic continues on its present course.
“Our predictions highlight the rapidly closing window of opportunity for controlling the outbreak and averting a catastrophic toll of new Ebola cases and deaths in the coming months,” says Alison Galvani, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health.
“Although we might still be within the midst of what will ultimately be viewed as the early phase of the current outbreak, the possibility of averting calamitous repercussions from an initially delayed and insufficient response is quickly eroding.”
The model developed by Galvani and colleagues projects as many as 170,996 total reported and unreported cases of the disease, representing 12% of the overall population of some 1.38 million people.
It forecast 90,122 deaths in Montserrado alone by December 15.
Much of this suffering could be averted if the international community steps up control measures immediately, starting October 31, the model predicts.
This would require additional Ebola treatment centre beds, a fivefold increase in the speed with which cases are detected, and allocation of protective kits to households of patients awaiting treatment center admission.
There have been approximately 9,000 reported cases and 4,500 deaths from the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea since the latest outbreak began with a case in a toddler in rural Guinea in December 2013.
For the first time cases have been confirmed among health workers treating patients in the United States and parts of Europe.
“The current global health strategy is woefully inadequate to stop the current volatile Ebola epidemic,” says co-author Frederick Altice, professor of internal medicine and public health.
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