Amid the good news that the West Africa Ebola outbreak has been contained in both Nigeria and Senegal, observers of the viral disaster received a flurry of conflicting estimates and worst case scenarios today, as the World Health Organization warned that 21,000 new cases could occur within the next two months, but the U.S. Center for Disease Control put the number at 1.4 million in four months.
The WHO released new estimates today that place the contamination number at 21,000 by November, an exponential increase from the current estimated 5,800 cases in West Africa. That estimate, experts note, is based on the worst case scenario in which the international community does not participate in the fight to contain the virus. The WHO added to their tally that they expect help from the United States and other nations will help reduce this number. “We’re beginning to see some signs in the response that gives us hope this increase in cases won’t happen,” said Christopher Dye, WHO’s director of strategy who co-authored the study estimating 21,000 cases in six weeks. The study published numerous scenarios for each nation affected.
America’s CDC has painted a much darker picture of the potential the Ebola virus has to spread. The CDC estimate, CNN reports, also does not take into account any international aid, and uses models based on the rate at which the virus was spreading in November to predict that anywhere between 550,000 and 1.4 million people could contract the virus by the end of January. These numbers resulted from a mathematical count that did not take into consideration the help President Obama and the CDC committed to sending to West Africa this month.
One issue causing significant difficulties with estimating Ebola contamination tolls is that the governments of the affected countries– Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea– do not have efficient ways to keep track of the number of Ebola cases. It is believed that thousands of cases could have gone unreported; thus, the 1.4 million number stems not from the current 5,800 cases but from that number combined with an estimated number of unreported cases currently existing.
Every nation appears to be dealing with the Ebola virus differently. Garnering many headlines this week, Sierra Leone imposed a nationwide lockdown for three days, allowing government and medical workers to go door to door in contaminated areas and find new cases or bodies that had not yet been taken to authorities. Individuals in the country of six million were not allowed to leave their homes. The search resulted in finding 98 bodies of Ebola victims, which the government deemed a success.