June 4th 2014: “The cumulative number of cases and deaths attributable to EVD in Guinea is now 328 (laboratory confirmed 193, probable 80, and suspected 55) including 208 deaths.” — Plus 79 cases and 6 deaths in Sierra Leone, for totals of 407 cases and 214 deaths.
“As of 2 July 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the three countries stands at 779, including 481 deaths.”
“As of 4 August 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the four countries stands at 1,711, including 932 deaths.”
From June 4 to July 2, the increase in cases was 1.91 times and the increase in deaths was 2.47 times.
From July 2 to August 4, the increase in cases was 2.19 times and the increase in deaths was 1.93 times.
If the number of cases and deaths from Ebola continues to double each month — a not-so-big if — and the disease spreads to other nations, we could be looking at a global pandemic of apocalyptic proportions.
If so, in 6 months the number of cases would be about 100,000 and in only one year, the number of cases would be about 7 million.
The death rate from Ebola is about 90%. So why does it seem to be only about 55%? That’s because a large portion of the cases are new, and have not yet “resolved” themselves. In other words, a certain number of these new cases simply have not died yet.
So if there are 100,000 cases six months from now (early February 2015), that would be 90,000 deaths. And if there are 7 million cases one year from now (early August 2015), that would be 6.3 million deaths. Of course, the number of cases cannot continue to double indefinitely. Twelve months from now would be 7 million cases, but 22 months from now would be 7 billion cases. It’s just not possible for the cases to continue to double. It will slow eventually.
But there is no reasonable possibility, given the ease of travel in the modern world, that those cases will be confined to Africa. Unfortunately, the developed nations tend to treat the African nations like second class citizens (or third class). Diseases and deaths don’t seem to weigh on us as much as if they had occurred in Paris, France (or Reston, Virginia). And that’s part of the problem. We should have addressed the threat of Ebola years ago, with vaccine development and treatments. And now we are forced to play catch up.
If an effective vaccine is developed, the increase in cases could slow. If an effective treatment is developed, the fatality rate could drop. A pie in the sky hope is that a therapeutic vaccine could cure the disease. (Therapeutic vaccines are effective even after a disease is contracted. Rabies vaccine is the preeminent example.) If none of these approaches work, we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths, or more.
The Spanish Flu pandemic infected 500 million persons and killed 10 to 20% of that number. Ebola has a fatality rate of 90%. For 500 million cases, that would be 490 million deaths — about 7% of the world population of 7 billion. It seems unlikely that it would get that bad, given advances in modern medicine in the last hundred years. But millions of deaths is a possibility, and hundreds of thousands of deaths is a probability.
Photo sources: Wikipedia