Although the media seem to have lost interest in West Africa, this chart may jog your memory:
It’s a chart of reported cases of the Ebola virus since the year it was discovered. Stunning, isn’t it.
This chart, however, is something of a lie. That’s because the 2014 epidemic – and I use the word advisedly – is far from over. Despite the media fatigue. At the end of August the World Health Organization predicted that the present epidemic would ultimately infect more than 20,000 people. Epidemiologists at Virginia Tech forecast something quite a bit more dire, “hundreds of thousands” of cases over 12-18 months.
Here is a map showing the extent of the epidemic to date, not including the latest cases reported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Case numbers aside, the epidemic has already spread 1,500 miles, give or take.
Think about that for a moment. In a few months, and despite poor transportation, the epidemic has covered the ground from Dallas to New York, and will probably infect over 20,000 people. The question is, will it really stop there?
Ebola is a virus, and viruses are funny things. They can mutate rapidly. There is a remote (but no one knows how remote) chance the thing could mutate in a way that enables some form of airborne transmission, instead of its present transmission through contact with bodily fluids. And of course with something that covers this much ground and involves so many people, there is a less remote chance that it will spread much further, via air or ship transport.
Even without mutations or escape routes off the continent, the number of cases is still growing geometrically. Newsweek quotes Anthony Fauci of NIH as saying that the virus is “completely out of control”.
One might think that the international community would announce threat level red and launch the moral equivalent of war to contain it. The most acute shortage is trained personnel. The actual response? Cuba is sending 165 doctors and nurses. Cuba. That’s the largest contingent to date. The U.S. has promised a 25-bed field hospital.
If you thought the media silence meant that the epidemic was over, you may be in for a very rude awakening. We all might.