WHO fears 20,000 could have Ebola by November

The Ebola virus could become endemic in West Africa for the first time a new report warns.

The New England Journal of Medicine has today published an alarming report by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Imperial College who predict that 20,000 people will have been infected with Ebola by early November unless control measures in West Africa are improved.

So far the WHO’s official count for the outbreak is 5,800 people infected and 2,800 dead, although the agency says “the true numbers of cases and deaths are certainly higher.”

They predict the casualty figures will rise so dramatically because the infection rate is so high. In Sierra Leone, every person who gets sick infects roughly two more people, the researchers say.

The researchers reviewed the fatality rate of the current outbreak, and found that by 14 September this year around 70% of Ebola-infected patients had died.

They also warn that the disease could become endemic among the populations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“Without drastic improvements in control measures the numbers and cases and deaths from [Ebola] are expected to continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week in coming months.”

The report says that the experimental treatments for Ebola are promising but are unlikely to be available soon enough or in large enough quantities to improve the situation in the short-term.

Writing elsewhere in the New England Journal of Medicine, microbiologist Peter Piot, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976, and Jeremy Farrar, a director of the Wellcome Trust, called for “a massive increase in the response, way beyond what is being planned in scale and urgency.”

  1. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1404505?query=featured_ebola
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