Forecast For Ebola In West Africa Worsens

Sobering news from the World Health Organization.

Ebola Virus

The World Health Organization has issued a new forecast for the future spread of Ebola in western Africa, and its much worse than previous forecasts:

The World Health Organization reported sobering new figures Tuesday about the Ebolaoutbreak ravaging West Africa, saying the mortality rate had risen to 70 percent and that the number of new cases could reach 10,000 per week by December.

The organization had been saying that the number of new cases was about 1,000 per week for the past four weeks, and that the mortality rate for Ebola had been around 50 percent.

The updated figures were provided by Dr. Bruce Aylward, the health organization’s assistant director general, during a telephone news conference from its Geneva headquarters.

He also said that as of Tuesday, the total number of Ebola cases over the course of the epidemic had reached 8,914, with 4,447 deaths. The vast majority are in the three most afflicted countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Just on Friday, the organization said that the deaths totaled 4,024 — indicating that hundreds more people have died in a matter of days.

Dr. Aylward, an infectious diseases specialist who just completed a visit to West Africa, said the survival rate was now “30 percent at most in these countries.” That suggests that patients have become more likely to die from the disease as the outbreak has spread — even as the international campaign to fight it has escalated. .

The epidemic has continued to expand geographically and now affects more areas than a month ago, including parts of Sierra Leone close to the border with Ivory Coast, Dr. Aylward said, and the number of infections was still rising in the capitals of the three worst-hit countries.

He described Ebola as “a high-mortality disease in any circumstance but especially in these countries.”

Dr. Aylward said the health organization was particularly focused on isolating 70 percent of new patients in the next two months — to remove them from situations in which they can pass the disease to others and begin reversing the tide of the Ebola virus.

While Dr. Aylward acknowledged the recent surge in international pledges to combat Ebola’s spread, he said that without a further escalation in help over the next 60 days, “a lot more people will die.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten a seemingly gloom and doom projection for the spread of Ebola. Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control issued a projection that included a worst case scenario of as many as 21,000 diagnosed cases of Ebola in the affected countries by September 30 and over one million by January. We have already passed the first deadline and the worst case scenario was not reached, so it’s worth taking this latest projections with some degree of sober skepticism. At the same time, though, there seem to be several factors associated with this outbreak that could make things very bad very quickly in nations with health care systems are already, to say the least, sub-par. For one thing, the mortality rate of 70% is significantly higher than what had been previously reported in other outbreaks, which was roughly in the neighborhood of 50%, which is high but not nearly as bad as one that says that 7 in 10 of the people who become infected with Ebola will end up dead. Some researchers have speculated that this higher mortality rate, and the faster rate at which the virus is spreading in west Africa is due to the fact that the strain of virus involved in this outbreak is more virulent than past strains. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the manner in which it is transmitted will change. The danger of Ebola becoming airborne like the common cold and the flu still seems to be quite remote. It does seem to mean, though, that it is now more likely that someone who comes in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person will themselves become infected, and that that person will die if they don’t receive immediate treatment. Arguably, the cases of Thomas Eric Duncan and the Dallas nurse who became infected while treating him, along with the cases such as the two American doctors who were treated at Emory University and the NBC cameraman being treated in Nebraska, are consistent with that theory. That kind of a stronger virus in the already devastated and poor nations of western Africa would seem to be the perfect recipe for disaster.

What all of this suggests, of course, is that the public health officials who have been arguing that the best strategy for the world to combat this outbreak, and to prevent it from spreading wider, would be to concentrate on containing its spread in western Africa. Isolating those countries form the rest of the world, as some have seemed to suggest, would only seem to guarantee that things will get worse and that, eventually, the disease will cross borders into the Ivory Coast and other nations, and possibly even pop up again in Nigeria which did an effective job of stopping an outbreak before it wandered into the teeming population of Lagos, a metropolitan area of some 21,000,000. From there, and assuming the disease continues to be as virulent as it is now, anything would seem to be possible.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    The title is misleading, the forecast for ebola is greatly improved, it’s the forecast for humans that’s getting worse.

  2. @Mu:

    Perhaps not an unfair point, but I doubt the Ebola virus is reading this blog post and I think people will get the point.

  3. Steve says:

    Strange last paragraph.You can fly any help in and out of military bases where personnel can be properly quarantined for 21 days on return.The same with visa returnees,fly them into restricted facilities where they can be held for 21 days.If this gets out and into America with more than a few dozen cases,I doubt very much it will be stoppable.

  4. JKB says:

    Where’s Obama’s Ebola czar? Funneling money to wealthy Democrat donors no doubt as she did 3 years ago with a sole source contract for a connected [now defunct] company to develop a vaccine and not letting the company now with the most promising vaccine compete. Hmmm?

    Where’s Dr. Nicole Lurie?

    as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.”

    Note in the video, she mentions responding to Haiti, why no response to America? Is she touring West Africa?

  5. Steve says:

    And $100 million fine for any airline bringing in a citizen of a plague country via indirect route.PLUS seal the southern border.IMO this is why they won’t ban plague nationals: If they did,people would realise the southern border is wide open and demand action.

  6. stonetools says:

    Oh well, the USA prepared itself well for this crisis by cutting funding for the CDC and NIH (thanks, GOP).According to NIH head Francis Collins ( co-mapper of the human genome) we may have had already a vaccine for ebola if it weren’t for cuts in NIH funding.

    Texas in particular did well shooting itself in the foot by turning down Medicaid expansion, thus maintaining its record as the state with the highest number of uninsured. Why is that important? Because uninsured people resist going to the hospital till they are really, really sick, when ebola is most contagious.

    Remember Reagan’s dictum-“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Well, this situation proves once again that the saying was bullsh!t. What’s even more terrifying is where the government can’t help when needed because of stupid spending cuts.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Steve: Are you imagining that someone is flying from Africa to Mexico, then putting himself in the hands of a mule to get him across the border to the US?


    The problem is that the longer this goes on in Africa, the more the support systems of the afflicted countries break down, and the worse the situation for Ebola patients.

    Although given some of the stories about the bureaucratic infighting causing medical supplies to sit on a dock for a month–it makes me despair. If people can’t learn how to work together for the good of their population rather than penny-ante political power struggles, maybe we don’t deserve to survive.

  8. JKB says:


    In a world where a $12.5 billion slush fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores, perhaps we should complain more about mission creep and Progressive faith in the habitually unrealized magic of increased government funding.

    I tell you what. Let’s do an audit of what CDC, NIH and HHS spent money on instead of Ebola research?

  9. wr says:

    @JKB: Ah, the old “conservative” standby — “Sure, slashed your funding, but I only meant for you to cut the things that wouldn’t turn out to be necessary in an unforseeable future.”

    Because the Party of Personal Responsibility can never be responsible for the damage they do. It’s always someone else’s fault.

  10. stonetools says:


    I think I’m going to go with the statement of Francis Collins, Phd. and likely future Nobel Prize winner over some hack at the Weekly Standard who probably thinks evolution is “just a theory” and who wouldn’t know a disease control protocol from his own backside. More importantly, that article says not a word about disease control and talks about the CDC, not the NIH-which just goes to show the level of knowledge of conservative opponents of science research funding

  11. wr says:

    @JKB: Did you actually read that article you linked to? Even a right wing hack like Hemingway doesn’t make the absurd claim you do — he is horrified that there’s money in the ACA tor programs designed to help prevent illness, including a focus on alcohol and tobacco, and that a small amount of this money funded a study he found icky (essentially because you can’t actually stay a “conservative” if you have actual information). So you are taking a shoddy story and turning it into an outright lie.

    Nice move.

  12. One thing I’m curious about that hasn’t been answered: if you get ebola and survive, is it more tlike the flu, where you can get it again, or chickenpox, where one infection makes you mostly immune to subsequent infections?

  13. Tyrell says:

    The CDC needs a system like the defense uses: defcon 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Each level requires more security, precautions, cooperation, and education. Right now the country should be on a level 2. There should be greater containment at the borders of the ebola countries. Complete monitoring of who goes in and who gets out. No one who has been in an ebola country should be allowed to come in on a commercial airline or ship unless they go through the proper quarantine.

  14. Ken says:

    @JKB: Where’s Obama’s Ebola czar

    You mean the Surgeon General? We haven’t had one for more than a year because of recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate

  15. the Q says:

    So JKB, why, according to your own principles, should tax money be wasted on a vaccine that most will not need, and most will not use and besides, there’s no money in ebola vaccines (at the time) so why worry about it?

    In other words, you scourge the government for acting just like a big corporation, paying attention to short term goals, while ignoring longer term problems.

    You see, thats why government should not be run like a business as the bagger zealots would have it.

  16. charles austin says:

    If some governments do not step up big time and take serious prophylactic action immediately it isn’t going to be limited to West Africa.

  17. wr says:

    @charles austin: “If some governments do not step up big time and take serious prophylactic action immediately it isn’t going to be limited to West Africa.”

    Yes, that’s exactly why they’re trying to stop it in West Africa.

  18. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Tyrell: and who is going to man the borders, pray tell? Take a look at the countries involved. It’s not like they’re Monaco or the Vatican. Given that these countries are already having problems with corralling villages inside the countries, why do you expect the borders can be patrolled to that extent?

    Though if we get more cases in Texas—you volunteering to go down and police their borders?

  19. Mu says:

    The day that CDC that’s so sure quarantine is the wrong thing drives his family to the airport and has his wife and kids shake hands with everybody coming from Africa, I believe him. Until that day, I still call for quarantine on countries where it becomes endemic.
    And sorry for my snark Doug, not one of my better days today.

  20. DrDaveT says:

    We have already passed the first deadline and the worst case scenario was not reached, so it’s worth taking this latest projections with some degree of sober skepticism.

    Seriously? Which part of “worst case” did you not understand?

    If the weather dude says “40% chance of rain”, and it doesn’t rain, do you conclude that weather forecasts are useless?

  21. anjin-san says:

    @charles austin:

    If some governments do not step up big time

    Ah, so government is the answer…

  22. Neil Hudelson says:


    IMO this is why they won’t ban plague nationals: If they did,people would realise the southern border is wide open and demand action.

    Yup, you figured it out. The government has done such a good job of hiding the real, horrifically unsafe condition of the border from the entire populace, that the thought of the public finding out is driving the government to keep open travel with plague nations. You cracked it, buddy.

  23. Nan Skovran says:

    @wr: Because finding out why lesbians are fat is so important.

  24. charles austin says:

    @anjin-san: Yes, in this case the governments (plural) are the only organizations with the resources at their disposal and the wherewithal to deal with this, but that would be true if the respective governments spent half as much as they do now. Why you think that implies government is the only solution to every problem is beyond my comprehension.

  25. Ron Beasley says:

    Prospects for Ebola In Texas Worsen.
    @charles austin:

    Why you think that implies government is the only solution to every problem is beyond my comprehension.

    In this case government is the only solution because there is little if any money to be made.

  26. Steve says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    What would you pay for screened blood serum from a recovered victim? What would you want for your serum? I’ll make you a better offer than the tax farmers who want to suck your blood from cradle to grave.

  27. charles austin says:

    @Ron Beasley: That’s strange, I thought I said that government is the only one that can deal with this, but I said nothing about it having to do with making money or being somehow extra blessed because it wasn’t about making money. Jeez, is it really necessary to try and score political points with everything? Good God.

  28. Pinky says:

    @charles austin: You need to think in internet terms. Those aren’t 4447 dead bodies, they’re 4447 potential talking points.