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CDC report predicts as many as 1.4 million cases of Ebola by January

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CDC report predicts as many as 1.4 million cases of Ebola by January


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a
report Tuesday predicting as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the
Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, by the end of January.

The CDC calculations are based, in part, on assumptions that cases
have been dramatically underreported. Other projections haven’t made the
same kind of attempt to quantify illnesses that may have been missed in
official counts.

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.

“The model shows — and I don’t think this has been shown by other
modeling tools out there — that a surge now can break the back of the
epidemic. It also shows that there are severe costs of delay,” CDC
Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a press conference Tuesday.

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

Separately, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a new
report that the number of people infected with the Ebola virus could
reach 20,000 by the beginning of November if efforts to contain the
outbreak are not accelerated.

The outbreak has killed around 2,800 people in five West African
countries this year. An estimated 5,800 people have been infected with
the virus, which has no known cure. The WHO has repeatedly said that the
actual number of infections and deaths is almost certainly higher than
the official figures.

The report, published six months after the first cases were reported,
is far more pessimistic than an earlier survey published last month, in
which the WHO suggested that the number of cases could reach 20,000 by
the middle of next year. According to The New York Times, the report
also raises the possibility that the outbreak will cause Ebola to become
endemic in West Africa.

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The WHO said Monday that the Ebola outbreak was “pretty much
contained” in Nigeria and Senegal. However, the death rate among
infected is currently at around 70 percent in the other three countries
touched by the infection: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Of those
three, Liberia has reported the most Ebola cases, at just over 3,000.

The epidemic has overwhelmed the healthcare systems of all three
countries, which rank among the world’s poorest. There aren’t enough
hospital beds, health workers or even soap and water.

Last week, the U.S. announced it would build more than a dozen
medical centers in Liberia and send 3,000 troops to help. Britain and
France have also pledged to build treatment centers in Sierra Leone and
Guinea and the World Bank and UNICEF have sent more than $1 million
worth of supplies to the region.

“We’re beginning to see some signs in the response that gives us hope
this increase in cases won’t happen,” Christopher Dye, WHO’s director
of strategy and study co-author, told the Associated Press. “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.”

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

“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.”

Local health officials have launched campaigns to educate people
about the symptoms of Ebola and not to touch the sick or the dead.
Previous Ebola outbreaks have been in other areas of Africa; this is the
first to hit West Africa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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