Friday, September 5, 2014

By September 21, 2014 Ebola could be infecting more than 1000 people a week in Africa

A World Health Organization (WHO) official made a dire prediction about the Ebola outbreak today. Christopher Dye, director of strategy in the WHO Director General’s office, stated in a media interview

"If we make a simple projection on what has happened over the last, say, 10 weeks ... and make a projection forward, then what we're faced with is not hundreds of cases a week, which is what we see at the moment, but thousands of cases a week going into next month.”

Based on WHO data, graphing the number of new Ebola cases for each of the last 10 weeks does show the increasing rate of cases each week. After applying a trend line to the data, week number 39 starting on September 21, 2014 appears to be the week when the 1000-cases-per-week milestone will be passed (see graph below). Given the reporting delays in case numbers, this milestone may not be confirmed until a week or two later. 

While media pundits like round numbers and milestones to emphasize talking points, there is nothing unique about a week with 1000 Ebola cases versus 800 cases the week before or perhaps 1300 cases a week later. The focus should be on implementing a plan to reduce the transmission of Ebola in these areas and provide care and services to the unfortunate victims. 

Graph: Projection of the number of new Ebola cases in Africa within the next several weeks, September 5, 2014  

Graph notes: Only cases from the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are used in this graph. The cases from Nigeria are not included in the week totals, but would not appreciably affect the projected rate of growth of new cases. All data are from WHO.

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