Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Look at the Worst-Ever Ebola Epidemic by Numbers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Look at the Worst-Ever Ebola Epidemic by Numbers

Article excerpt

LONDON * As the biggest-ever outbreak of Ebola continues to ravage West Africa, here are a few key numbers to get a handle on the epidemic:

13,268 and 4,960:

According to an update Friday from the World Health Organization, there have been 13,268 Ebola cases and 4,960 deaths since the first child died of the virus in December but those figures include all probable, suspected and confirmed cases and are subject to change as more information becomes available. The numbers fluctuate as more data become available and as probable and suspected cases are either discarded or confirmed.

Experts warn that the actual numbers of cases and deaths are probably far higher than what's been reported, because people may be reluctant to seek care and officials are too overwhelmed with control efforts to record every single case. The vast majority of patients are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Cases and deaths are typically only recorded days after people become symptomatic or die, which complicates a real-time understanding of Ebola.

"We are definitely getting a delayed picture of the outbreak," said Sebastian Funk, a lecturer in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "It's difficult to tell if we are reaching a turning point or if there will be a doomsday scenario. I could see it going either way at the moment."

BEDS NEEDED: 4,707

According to WHO, 4,707 beds are needed across West Africa in Ebola treatment clinics; at the moment, just 22 percent of the necessary number are operational. The agency estimates a further 2,685 beds are needed for basic Ebola clinics where minimal treatment is provided and people are mostly isolated while waiting for test results. At the moment, just 4 percent of beds in these community clinics are available.

Given the uncertainty about case numbers, Funk says things such as bed occupancy are a good sign of how the outbreak is evolving. "We really need to see numbers go down for several weeks to be confident it's a real trend," he said. …

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