LONDON (AP) — New estimates from the World Health Organization 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, 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 percent among hospitalized patients but noted 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 new analysis was published online Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine — six months after the first infections were reported on March 23.
On Tuesday, the U.S. 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.
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, according to a draft version of the report obtained by The Associated Press. They also predict that the two countries could have a staggering 550,000 to 1.4 million cases by late January.
Full article: WHO: 21,000 Ebola cases by November if no changes (USA Today)