The latest figures from the World Health Organization show that Ebola epidemic has claimed nearly 5,000 lives, mostly in West Africa. But that number could be 18 times greater in just one county in Liberia within two months, according to a new study.
Of the three countries in West Africa afflicted by the Ebola virus, Liberia has been hit the worst. In Monrovia, the infection rate remains intense according to the World Health Organization.
The organization has made multiple appeals for aid from developed nations. Some aid has arrived. Some new treatment centers have been built, but a new study from Yale University shows that, even if all the aid already pledged came through, it would not be enough to control the epidemic in Liberia's Montserrado County, where a quarter of Liberia's people live and which includes Monrovia.
The research shows that, without greater efforts, more than 170,000 people will get Ebola and, of that number, more than 90,000 will die by mid-December in just this one area.
Dr. David Fisman, at the University of Toronto, reviewed the study which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
"The reason I thought this was such an important article is that it very elegantly makes the point that, as we wait for action on Ebola - because this is an epidemic that's growing very, very fast - that means we get not just more new cases, but exponentially more new cases with every passing week," said Fisman.
The predictions highlight the rapidly closing window of opportunity for controlling the outbreak according to the principal author of the Yale study.
Put another way, Dr. Fisman likens the epidemic's growth to making an investment.
"Imagine putting your money in an investment where your money is growing by 50 percent every two weeks. That would be wonderful. What we have with Ebola is an epidemic that is growing like that," he said.
The Lancet article says if measures to control the disease are scaled up by November, and another 4,800 new hospital beds are added, and detecting new cases are greatly speeded up, along with protective kits being provided for home care, almost 100,000 people will be spared from getting Ebola in Liberia's Montserrado County.
As for the entire Ebola-afflicted region of West Africa, Dr. Fisman's own projections show a total of 700,000 people will have been infected by the time the epidemic is under control, and, of those, 60 to 70 percent will die. A grim projection unless countries respond faster to control the virus.