21 000 Ebola cases by November if no changes

2014-09-23 11:40

London – New estimates from the World Health Organisation warn the number of Ebola cases could hit 21 000 in six weeks unless efforts to curb the outbreak are ramped up.

Since the first cases were reported six months ago, the tally of cases in West Africa has reached an estimated 5 800 illnesses. WHO officials say cases are continuing to increase exponentially and Ebola could sicken people for years to come without better control measures.

In recent weeks, health officials worldwide have stepped up efforts to provide aid but the virus is still spreading. There aren’t enough hospital beds, health workers or even soap and water in the hardest-hit West African countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“We’re beginning to see some signs in the response that gives us hope this increase in cases won’t happen,” said Christopher Dye, the WHO’s director of strategy and study co-author, who acknowledged the predictions come with a lot of uncertainties.

“This is a bit like weather forecasting. We can do it a few days in advance, but looking a few weeks or months ahead is very difficult.”

They also calculated the death rate to be about 70% among hospitalised patients but noted that many Ebola cases were only identified after they died. So far, about 2 800 deaths have been attributed to Ebola. Dye said there was no proof Ebola was more infectious or deadly than in previous outbreaks.

The WHO is just one of the groups that have attempted to calculate the epidemic’s future toll.

Today, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release its own predictions for only Liberia and Sierra Leone – the two West African countries that recently have shown the steadiest and most alarming spread of cases.

CDC scientists conclude there may be as many as 21 000 reported and unreported cases in just those two countries as soon as the end of this month, according to a draft version of the report. They also predict that the two countries could have a staggering 550 000 to 1.4 million cases by late January.

The agency’s numbers seem “somewhat pessimistic” and do not account for infection control efforts already under way, said Dr Richard Wenzel, a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Other outside experts questioned WHO’s projections and said Ebola’s spread would ultimately be slowed not only by containment measures but by changes in people’s behaviour.

“It’s a big assumption that nothing will change in the current outbreak response,” said Dr Armand Sprecher, an infectious diseases specialist at Doctors Without Borders.

“Ebola outbreaks usually end when people stop touching the sick,” he said. “The outbreak is not going to end tomorrow but there are things we can do to reduce the case count.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.