Is Ebola Coming To America? Experts Ponder As Ebola Epidemic Rages In Africa.

New CDC and WHO data suggest that Africa’s Ebola outbreak is worse than expected — and in a worst-case scenario, the current Ebola epidemic could become endemic.

And those gloomy projections have experts worried that Ebola will inevitably arrive in the United States.

According to CDC modeling released on Tuesday, Liberia and Sierra Leone are on track to have 21,000 cases of Ebola by September 30, unless the situation rapidly improves. (The CDC’s estimate is based on an assumption that more than half of all Ebola cases will not be reported or detected.)

CDC also estimates that as many as 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone could contract Ebola by January 20.

  • Given that about 10 million people live in Liberia and Sierra Leone, that estimate suggests that about one in seven residents would contract Ebola.
  • The current outbreak has a mortality rate of more than 70%.

In separate projections released on Monday, the World Health Organization offered up a dire warning: There might not be an easy solution for the current Ebola epidemic, given the outbreak’s rate and pace.

Instead, Ebola could become a lasting problem for Africa.

“We must therefore face the possibility that [Ebola] will become endemic among the human population of West Africa, a prospect that has never previously been contemplated,” the WHO Ebola Response Team wrote in theNew England Journal of Medicine.

“The risk of continued epidemic expansion and the prospect of endemic EVD in West Africa call for the most forceful implementation of present control measures and for the rapid development and deployment of new drugs and vaccines.”

However, in a best-case scenario, CDC says that the new mobilization of public health efforts and U.S. military support will be able to contain Ebola and end the current epidemic by January 20.

“My gut feeling is, the actions we’re taking now are going to make that worst-case scenario not come to pass,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who runs the CDC, told the New York Times. “But it’s important to understand that it could happen.”

Bad News In Africa Only Bodes Poorly For World
The continued persistence of the Ebola epidemic has experts increasingly pessimistic about a quick solution.

Ebola cases in West Africa are rising faster than hospital beds are available. And the outbreak’s spread is seemingly accelerating. (Chart via virologist Ian Mackay.)

The longer the Ebola outbreak rages, the more likely it is that the disease will mutate into an even more dangerous form. Scott Gottlieb, who served as a top FDA official under President George W. Bush, believes that at least several cases of Ebola will come to America, and has warned that there’s even a chance that the disease could go airborne.

But there are signs of hope, even in West Africa. As David Kroll — who has so ably tracked the Ebola outbreak for Forbes — reported yesterday, nearby Nigeria has been able to remain free from Ebola. At Vox, Brad Plumer hasreviewed the evidence of Ebola going airborne, and finds that the odds are “very unlikely.”

Government officials also continue to stress that there’s little chance of a mass Ebola outbreak in the United States, a point that the NIH’s Anthony Faucireiterated to Congress last week. And even if a few Ebola patients arrive in the U.S., the nation’s hospitals would be well-equipped to handle them.


As of press time on September 23, the number of Ebola cases in the United States remained at zero.

The following two tabs change content below.
Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.