Liberia and Sierra Leone could face from 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of Ebola by January 2015, according to a worst-case scenario from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The findings in this report underscore the substantial public health challenges posed by the predicted number of future Ebola cases. If conditions continue without scale-up of interventions, cases will continue to double approximately every 20 days, and the number of cases in West Africa will rapidly reach extraordinary levels," wrote the CDC researchers.
Bloomberg News' Kelly Gilblom and Caroline Chen report:
The CDC said it increased its earlier estimates after adding in an assumption that the number of cases is "significantly underreported." The model, which calculates the potential caseload through Jan. 20, doesn't account for a recently announced U.S. government Ebola relief effort that includes more personnel to build new treatment centers.
There are 4.3 million people in Liberia and 6.1 million people in Sierra Leone. The model doesn't include Guinea because the number of cases there has fluctuated too much to make modeling valid, the CDC said.
Another report generated by the World Health Organization and published in The New England Journal of Medicine also concluded that the "current epidemiologic outlook is bleak," with a 71 percent fatality rate for those with the disease in West Africa. In fact, if efforts to contain the outbreak don't significantly improve, the number of cases of Ebola could break 20,000 by November 2.
The outbreak is so devastating, the report concluded, because of a "combination of dysfunctional health systems, international indifference, high population mobility, local customs, densely populated capitals, and lack of trust in authorities after years of armed conflict... Perhaps most important, Ebola has reached the point where it could establish itself as an endemic infection because of a highly inadequate and late global response."
The latest data from the WHO has the death toll at 2,811, with the disease having been largely contained in Senegal and Nigeria.