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CDC Model Shows Potential for Ebola Outbreak Infection Spike

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current outbreak of the Ebola virus could infect more than one million people if further steps are not taken to help the most severely affected countries.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current outbreak of the Ebola virus could infect more than one million people if further steps are not taken to help the most severely affected countries.

Using a model that looked at a number of factors, the authors of a study reported that by January 2015 there could be anywhere between 550,000 and 1.4 million cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia alone. A fact sheet provided by the CDC noted that the highest estimate is based on an assumption that the number of actual cases of the virus are considerably higher than those being reported by local authorities. A statement from the CDC also noted that the numbers did not take into account the recent pledge by President Obama to increase the country’s relief efforts to the African continent.

With those and other contributions, the authors of the study said the outbreak could impact considerably fewer people than the projected worst-case scenarios. “If we do nothing, things could become much worse. If we take the actions that are planned, things will still be very hard but we can stop Ebola,” the CDC said.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said the model shows how bad things can be, but also said that it does not have to be that bad.

“The Ebola Response model is an important tool for people working to stop Ebola,” he said. “It provides the ability to help Ebola response planners make more informed decisions on the emergency response to help bring the outbreak under control — and what can happen if these resources are not brought to bear quickly.”

Noting that there are “severe costs to delay,” Frieden said the added assistance the United States is providing will help the effort, but more needs to be done.

“It is still possible to reverse the epidemic, and we believe this can be done if a sufficient number of all patients are effectively isolated, either in Ebola Treatment Units or in other settings, such as community-based or home care,” he said.

Frieden said the proper isolation of infected patients will be a key tool in fighting the outbreak. “Once a sufficient number of Ebola patients are isolated, cases will decline very rapidly — almost as rapidly as they rose,” he said.