New forecasts show Ebola infections could reach 1.4 million by
2 October 2014
The current Ebola epidemic could claim hundreds of thousands of lives and
infect more than 1.4 million people by the end of January 2015,
according to a new forecast released by the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
The CDC forecast supports the drastically higher projections
released earlier by scientists from the Virginia Bioinformatics
Institute, who modelled the Ebola spread as part of a National
Institutes of Health-sponsored project called Midas (Models of
Infectious Disease Agent Study). The effort is also supported by the federal Defense Threat
Before the new forecast, the outbreak in West Africa was
predicted to be under control in nine months with only about 20,000
total cases. But modelling showed 20,000 people could be infected in
just a single month.
The predictions could change dramatically if public health
efforts become effective, but based on the virus’s current
uncontrolled spread, numbers of people infected could skyrocket.
The Ebola virus
“If the disease keeps spreading as it has been we estimate there
could be hundreds of thousands of cases by the end of the year in
Liberia alone,” said Bryan Lewis, a computational epidemiologist
with the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the
Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.
Lewis and his fellow researchers use a combination of models to
predict outcomes of the epidemic.
The agent-based models are adaptive, evolving as more information
is fed into them, to provide an accurate forecast.
Pharmaceutical intervention, which is still on the horizon, is
proving less effective in the models than supportive care and
personal protection equipment for health care workers.
“The work with Ebola is not an isolated event,” said Christopher
Barrett, the executive director of the institute. “This research is
part of a decades-long effort largely funded by the Defense Threat
Reduction Agency to build a global synthetic population that will
allow us to ask questions about our world and ourselves that we have
never been able to ask before, and to use those answers to prevent
or quickly intervene during a crisis.”
Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS). MIDAS is a
collaboration of research and informatics groups to develop
computational models of the interactions between infectious agents
and their hosts, disease spread, prediction systems and response