A new model developed by ecologists at the University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University suggests that if the current level of vigilance is maintained and the trend towards better hospitalization continues, Ebola virus could be on its way out from the badly stricken country of Liberia by June.
John Drake, one of the lead researchers and a computational ecologist and epidemiologist at the University of Georgia said, “That’s a realistic possibility but not a foregone conclusion.”
“What’s needed is to maintain the current level of vigilance and keep pressing forward as hard as we can,” he added.
Drake came to these conclusions after developing a computer model which took into account variables like the number of patients who had been hospitalized, the number of health care workers who got infected, rates of transmission from funerals where the corpses of victims are touched, and the relative effectiveness of Ebola control measures.
In a previous statement, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “I remain very confident we can get to zero cases in this epidemic if we continue the way we’re going and nothing unexpected happens.”
“The largest, biggest risk is that it continues to fester and continues to spread at a low rate, which means it could flare up at any time. We have to get to zero and then stay at zero and that’s going to require monitoring, surveillance,” the director added.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 21,000 people have been infected and more than 8,000 lives lost to deadly virus in the three worst affected African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea alone since the virus first raised its ugly head.
The team of researchers created a branching process model where different possible outcomes were identified.
The worst case scenario identified by them would be having hospital bed capacity that can only accommodate 70 percent of infected patients. If this is the case, the researchers said, “Active transmission would most certainly continue into the second half of 2015.”
The best scenario so far, according to them, would mean hospitalization for 85% on the infected people. Computer aided simulations in that case suggest containing the epidemic sometime between March and June 2015.