The Ebola epidemic, which is killing thousands of people in West Africa, is going to get much worse within weeks without significant help from the international community, according to a group of researchers.
Seven scientists from Yale’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine in New Haven, CT, and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia developed a mathematical transmission model of Ebola and applied it to Liberia’s most populated county, Montserrado, which has been hit hard by the epidemic. The researchers conclude that by December 15, tens of thousands of new Ebola cases — and deaths — are likely to occur 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 and the paper’s senior author, in a news release. “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 his colleagues projects more than 90,000 deaths from Ebola in Montserrado by Dec. 15. Almost 100,000 cases of Ebola, or 97,940 cases, could be prevented in Liberia if the international community starts increasing control measures right away.
Measures needed to halt that spread would mean that by Oct. 31, there would need to be:
- additional Ebola treatment center 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.
If the interventions are delayed to Nov. 15, the researchers predict that, at best, just over half as many cases, or about 54,000, can be prevented. If those measures had been in place already by Oct. 15, the researchers predict that 137,432 cases in Montserrado could have already been avoided.
There have been approximately 9,000 reported cases and 4,500 deaths from Ebola in the West African Nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea since December 2013.
“The current global health strategy is woefully inadequate to stop the current volatile Ebola epidemic,” co-author Frederick Altice, M.D., professor of internal medicine and public health adds. “At a minimum, capable logisticians are needed to construct a sufficient number of Ebola treatment units in order to avoid the unnecessary deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people.”