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CDC develops a modeling tool for predicting the success of various Ebola response measures

CDC has developed a dynamic modeling tool called Ebola Response that allows for estimations of projected cases over time in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Ebola Response modeling tool has been used to construct scenarios to illustrate how control and prevention interventions can slow and eventually stop the Ebola epidemic. Importantly, it can help planners make more informed decisions about emergency response resources to help bring the outbreak under control. It allows input of data reflective of the current situation on the ground in affected countries and communities. Ebola Response is intended to help local governments and international responders generate short-term estimates of the Ebola situations in countries, districts, and villages. The tool, in the form of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, will be made freely available online.

Ebola Response makes case projections, but also models the impact of key elements essential to controlling the outbreak: the number of sick individuals who are effectively isolated and other actions to control for spread of infection, such as safe burial practices. Currently, many healthy individuals are contracting Ebola from non-isolated individuals with the disease. Others are contracting Ebola because traditional burial practices can involve multiple family members being exposed to the bodily fluids of the deceased body, which are highly contagious. Ebola Response modeling shows that with an increasing rate of isolation and measures to control the spread of infection, the rate of new Ebola cases declines rapidly.

CDC used the Ebola Response modeling tool to calculate Ebola cases through to mid-January in Sierra Leone and Liberia, providing an example of how this tool can be used. The MMWR estimates a range of between 550,000 and 1.4 million cases by January 20th, 2015. The top range of the case estimate, 1.4 million, is explained by the model’s assumption that cases are significantly underreported by a factor of 2.5. It is essential to note that these numbers reflect a moment in time based on scientific and epidemiological data available in August, which did not account for the ramping up of the Ebola relief effort which has occurred in September. Modeling suggests that extensive, immediate actions – such as those already started – can bring the epidemic to a tipping point to start a rapid decline in cases.

The most important part of the report describes the potential effect of public health actions. The news is encouraging. If we do nothing, things could become much worse. If the international community takes the actions that are planned Ebola can be brought under control. The model indicates that once a tipping point is reached, cases will decline about as rapidly as they had increased.


•Date: 25th September 2014 • Africa •Type: Article • Topic: Pandemic planning

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