"We have a worst-case scenario, and you don't even want to know," warns Alessandro Vespignani, a researcher creating simulations of infectious disease outbreaks, but there could be as many as two dozen people in the U.S. infected with Ebola by the end of the month. The projections only run through October because it’s too difficult to model what will occur if the pace of the outbreak changes but, as Bloomberg reports, Vespignani warns if the outbreak becomes more widespread in other regions, it "would be like a bad science fiction movie."
Alessandro Vespignani, a Northeastern University professor who runs computer simulations of infectious disease outbreaks warns there could be as many as two dozen people in the U.S. infected with Ebola by the end of the month.
The projections only run through October because it’s too difficult to model what will occur if the pace of the outbreak changes in West Africa, where more than 8,900 people have been infected and 4,400 have died, he said. If the outbreak isn’t contained, the numbers could rise significantly.
“If by the end of the year the growth rate hasn’t changed, then the game will be different,” Vespignani said. “It will increase for many other countries.”
The model analyzes disease activity, flight patterns and other factors that can contribute to its spread.
“We have a worst-case scenario, and you don’t even want to know,” Vespignani said. “We could have widespread epidemics in other countries, maybe the Far East. That would be like a bad science fiction movie.”
The worst case would occur if Ebola acquires pandemic status and is no longer contained in West Africa, he said. It would be a catastrophic event, one Vespignani says he is confident won’t happen.
The CDC disagrees...
It’s unlikely that Ebola will ever exceed 20 cases in the U.S. or Europe because of their extensive health care infrastructures, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. The problem in the developed world will center more on the economic impact, he said.
“The damage is not as much in the number of deaths as much as in the panic it creates and all the disruption it creates in trade and travel,” he said. “It’s important for public health officials to strike a balance between being serious and certainly not creating panic.”
“It’s not going to be like the movie ‘Contagion,’” he said.
And Eli Perencevich, professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, said average Americans shouldn’t see any risk from the virus outside of the medical community because patients aren’t terribly infectious until the disease peaks...
“There’s a high probability that there will be another person who comes in, no matter what we do, but the risk is in the hospital,” he said in a telephone interview. “As long as people who know they have been exposed to the virus get themselves quickly to the hospital, even after they have started a fever, it should be OK because they aren’t that infectious.”
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Let's hope he is right!