Latest Ebola Outbreak Could Settle by End of June, Experts Predict
The current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to 28 deaths.
The World Health Organization’s swift response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo seems to have paid off, as experts are now predicting new cases will stop popping up by the end of June, according to NPR.
With the devastating 2014-2016 outbreak still fresh in many minds, the health industry kicked efforts into high gear when officials declared the outbreak last month.
The WHO has since deployed more than 7,500 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine.
And while a total of 55 cases of Ebola have been confirmed, probable, or suspected, including 28 deaths, it now looks like the outbreak could soon come to an end.
After creating a mathematical standard to determine how quickly Ebola was spreading in the Congo, Christian Althaus, head of the Immuno-Epidemiology Research Group at the University of Bern, has managed to predict the final numbers of cases expected from this outbreak, he told NPR by email.
Althaus believes that the current outbreak will settle by the end of June, with no more than 67 cases in total.
To find this out, Althaus calculated the average number of people who became infected by each person carrying Ebola. At the start of the outbreak, the reproduction number was 3.2. This meant that, at the time, each person with Ebola was spreading it to approximately three others.
Weeks later, the number now sits below one, which means infected people are spreading the virus to fewer people and the outbreak is slowing down.
“Given the current public health response and awareness, I'm quite confident that the final size of the outbreak will remain within the model projections,” Althaus told NPR.
Other experts agree with these predictions.
Bryan Lewis is a computational epidemiologist at Virginia Tech and he uses math, computer science and other tools to come up with forecasts about the spread of diseases, too. He agrees that the outbreak led to a quick health response, but he warns infectious diseases don’t always follow a set model.
“Predictions about infectious disease are very challenging since humans are the primary drivers of infection, and we are so unpredictable,” Lewis wrote in an email to NPR. “Ebola in particular is very random; one 'unlikely' event can change the course of an outbreak [and] spike cases.”
Still, both researchers are hopeful that the end of this outbreak is near.
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