More than 20,000 Ebola cases likely by November, forecasts WHO

The United Nations has already called for 20-fold increase in assistance to control the outbreak in West Africa

By Vani Manocha
Published: Tuesday 23 September 2014


Unless Ebola control measures in West Africa are enhanced quickly, the number of those affected by the disease will continue to climb exponentially, warns World Health Organization (WHO).

In a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on Tuesday, the international agency says, “We estimate that, at the current rate of increase, assuming no changes in control efforts, the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases by November 2 (the end of week 44 of the epidemic) will be 5,740 in Guinea, 9,890 in Liberia, and 5,000 in Sierra Leone, exceeding 20,000 cases in total.”

The study was jointly conducted by experts from WHO and Imperial College, London to review data since the beginning of the outbreak, determine the scale of the epidemic, better understand the spread of the disease, and what it will take to reverse the trend of infections.

According to WHO, though it was first notified of the outbreak on March 23 this year, investigations revealed the outbreak started way back in December 2013. Between December 30, 2013 and now, a total of 5,800 cases and nearly 2,600 deaths have been reported to WHO.

“This study gave us some real insight into how this outbreak was working, for example, we learned there is no significant difference among the different countries in the total numbers of male and female case patients,” says Christopher Dye, director of strategy for WHO, and co-author of the study.

Although the current epidemic in three countries of West Africa—Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia—is unprecedented in scale, the clinical course of infection and the transmissibility of the virus are similar to those in previous Ebola outbreaks.

"This study provides the evidence needed for an urgent wakeup call requiring intensive scaling up of control measures while working towards rapid development and deployment of new medicines and vaccines," says the international health agency.

Days before this, the United Nations had called for increased monetary aid and other assistance to save lives in affected countries. “Our best estimate is that we need a 20-fold increase in assistance,” UN had said as it outlined a set of critical needs totalling almost US $1 billion over the next six months.

Research: Ebola virus disease in West Africa — The first 9 months of the epidemic and forward projections

Perspective: Ebola — Underscoring the global disparities in health care resources

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