Dire new estimates show that people who contract the deadly Ebola virus have a 70.8% chance of dying — and the disease is on course to spread even more rapidly than ever. The latest projections propose a worst-case scenario in which 1.4 million new cases will emerge in the next four months.
The death rate for those infected with the virus is only one among many grim facts revealed in reports released today in the New England Journal of Medicine and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as a separate assessment by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The CDC report offers the most dire predictions, according to the New York Times, saying that as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the Ebola virus could emerge in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, in four months. The CDC calculations are based, in part, on the assumption that cases have been dramatically underreported.
Today marks six months since WHO was notified of an Ebola outbreak in Guinea, although officials estimate that the outbreak actually began nine months ago. A slow response to the disease is partly behind the rapid spread of the outbreak, according to the study's authors.
So far, more than 5,800 people have been infected with the virus and 2,800 have died from it, according to the WHO's latest official figures. Since many more deaths have likely gone unreported, the agency's researchers acknowledge that "the true numbers of cases and deaths are certainly higher."
The WHO report estimates that the toll could quadruple by the end of October and reach over 20,000 confirmed and suspected cases by November 2. The new cases are expected to break down this way: 5,740 in Guinea, 9,890 in Liberia, and 5,000 in Sierra Leone.
"Without drastic improvements in control measures, the numbers and cases and deaths from are expected to continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week in coming months," the researchers said.
Other data in the study show that the disease is equally deadly for males and females. While the 70.8 percent death rate is startling, the chances of a patient surviving are much better among those who receive good health care quickly.
In one positive note, the authors write that the outbreaks of Ebola in Senegal and Nigeria have been "pretty much contained," with no new cases of Ebola for more than 21 days.
Read the entire WHO report here.