An article by Michaud and Kates seems to suggest that if there are no changes in the projected epidemic outbreak, then the possible future outcome of Ebola epidemic could reach 1.4 million by the end of January 2015 based on the CDC’s new Ebola model (Michaud & Kates, 2014).
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This estimate could be the worst-case scenario for Liberia and Sierra Leone. The earliest case of Ebola was diagnosed over six months ago in West Africa and the outbreak has persisted steadily, particularly in the two West African states (Michaud & Kates, 2014).
The article depicts a grim case for Ebola epidemic in the future, if there is no substantial action adopted immediately. It creates a sense of urgency by relying on stark new data from the WHO, which show vast underestimates, unreported, uncounted and undetected cases and projections from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the CDC has provided the future possible projections for Ebola, the WHO as acted an authoritative source by providing data which the global health community and other stakeholders depend on for updates and situation reports. The WHO has actively gathered data from relevant stakeholders since August. The WHO figures represent the ‘gold standard’.
However, Michaud and Kates claim that one cannot view them at face value because the WHO has clarified that those numbers are vast underestimates (Michaud & Kates, 2014). In addition, several cases are not detected, reported or counted because of many diverse reasons. Consequently, the WHO has concluded that “actual number of cases is two to four times greater than the official reported numbers” (Michaud & Kates, 2014).
The WHO has constantly revised its figures because of new emerging trends. For instance, the latest data have captured rapid epidemiological factors such as the reproductive rate of disease and average number of new infections associated with the Ebola outbreak.
Based on these observations, the WHO has provided new estimates as 1.51 and 1.38 for Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively. The most important factor to consider is that a reproductive rate beyond one represents a severe situation and it suggests that the outbreak will expand exponentially, unless immediate interventions are adopted to change these projections.
The article points out a critical issue facing the global health community with reference to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa – insufficient, untimely and unreliable data (Michaud & Kates, 2014). As a result, any interventions in terms of personnel, supplies and related services are hindered because of vague and time-delayed estimates (Michaud & Kates, 2014).
Available information cannot exactly confirm affected and infected persons, areas, new cases, declining cases and areas facing major risks of new infections. Michaud and Kates have attributed these challenges moderately to a lack of vital data and poor surveillance abilities in West Africa. Moreover, there are rapidly changing and chaotic circumstances on the ground.
Has the global health community – doctors, epidemiologists, humanitarians and policymakers done enough to combat Ebola and any other epidemics that can occur in the future? The world is asking why and how the epidemic has spread so fast and has continued to expand rapidly (Gharib, 2014).
While the global health community continues to fight the virus, discover a cure and prevent future outbreaks, public health policies have demonstrated critical weaknesses. For instance, there is poor knowledge about Ebola, myths, distrust, poor health infrastructures, misconceptions and a general lack of reliable data for decision-making.
Gharib, M. (2014, July 31). How the global health community is responding to Ebola. Retrieved from https://www.one.org/us/
Michaud, J., & Kates, J. (2014, September 29). Measuring the Impact of Ebola: Will it Reach 1.4 Million? Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/perspective/measuring-the-impact-of-ebola-will-it-reach-1-4-million/