In DepthInfectious Disease

Estimating the Ebola epidemic

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Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1108
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6201.1108

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Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that Ebola could sicken more than 20,000 people before the current outbreak in West Africa is under control. Scientists across the world are scrambling to create computer models that accurately describe the spread of the deadly virus. Their projections could help agencies such as WHO predict the medical supplies and personnel they will need—and can indicate which interventions will best stem the outbreak. But the modelers are hampered by the paucity of data on the current outbreak and lack of knowledge about how exactly Ebola spreads. If the disease keeps spreading at the current rate, most of the modelers Science talked to say WHO’s estimate will turn out to be conservative.