As if the current Ebola virus outbreak is not bad enough, a report issued today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that anywhere between 550,000 and 1.4 million people living in West Africa could become infected by January 2015.
The CDC assumes that the number of cases officially logged so far by the World Health Organization of 5,864 is incorrect. Experts believe cases of the Ebola virus have been dramatically underreported and as such, it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases actually exist, which equates to about 20,000 people.
An emphasis was placed on projections, which are based on an epidemiological model whereby the number of people with Ebola who eventually infect others is taken into account. Other factors are included as well to include data made available this past August. For this reason, officials with the CDC are not counting the US government Ebola relief effort recently announced. As part of this, 3,000 members of the armed forces are being sent to regions hit hard by the virus.
In the statement from the CDC, it was stressed that extensive and immediate actions to include those already started, have the ability to bring the Ebola virus epidemic to a tipping point of seeing a rapid decline in the number of cases.
According to a senior UN official, the escalating Ebola crisis specific to Liberia is threatening the very core of the country. Things have become so bad that many of the economic, social and political gains made by that country are now moving in reverse. Sadly, Liberia was experiencing positive growth but now, 2014 projections have been slashed by about 70%.
Another UN representative, Antonio Vigilante, stated that the number of cases in Liberia alone is increasing by 50% every few weeks and that approximately 50% of the infected people have died. Because so many people have now been affected by the Ebola virus, there is significant slowdown in industries like mining, agricultural, and forestry.
To fight the battle against Ebola, West Africa is now testing experimental drugs for the first time in an effort to quickly provide patients with a viable treatment. To help, Wellcome Trust, a charitable organization located in London, is donating $5.2 million, hoping it will help research institutions and aid groups, but also make it possible for the World Health Organization to establish clinical trials at treatment centers.
Unfortunately, there is no known vaccine or treatment for the Ebola virus. However, an untested drug called Zmapp has been administered to a small number of patients, as well as Sarepta, a US-based company and Tekmira in Canada. Participating groups continue to work with health officials in the affected countries in identifying the best sites for the clinical trials.
The bottom line according to a publication in the New England Journal of Medicine written by the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team is that the only way to avoid a sharp increase in the number of Ebola confirmed cases is by isolating patients, increasing and improving clinical care, safely burying the dead bodies, and engaging the community.