Ebola’s rate of growth

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The journal Science provides a detailed analysis of the infection rate of ebola, as well a reasonable estimate of the present and future number of cases.

The article makes two key points. First, the trends “…clearly show that the number of cases has roughly doubled every 3 to 4 weeks and that this trend is continuing. If underreporting gets worse, however, it may be even more difficult to discern such trends.”

Second, there is some good news in the worst effected countries.

The number of new cases in some areas at the epicenter of the outbreak– Kenema and Kailahun districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Lofa county–has been dropping, and that’s not a result of underreporting, says Dye. “It has happened for a sufficiently large number of weeks now that we are confident that it’s a real reduction in incidence on the ground, probably related to control measures,” he says. “Our colleagues working on the ground believe it is too.”

One important factor has been the increase in safe burials, Dye says. (The bodies of Ebola victims are very infections.) People in the affected areas have resisted abandoning traditional burial practices that carry a high risk of infection, but in these three areas, local leaders, supported by WHO and others, have come to advocate a change. If that happens elsewhere, says Dye, “we expect to be able to cut out a substantial amount of infection in the community.”


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