The Washington Post

Ebola: Eight facts about American perception and West African reality

The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel writes about what it takes to leave some West African airports: a normal temperature. The cold calculation of health is many travelers’ ticket out of the Ebola-ravaged region

Here’s more about the epidemic, our perception of Ebola in the United States and the reality abroad:

1.  The current Ebola epidemic has claimed more lives than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined.

As of last week, the number of suspected deaths (1,552) surpassed the number of confirmed deaths (1,548) from every outbreak since the disease was discovered in 1976, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Ebola cases could top 20,000 before the epidemic stops.

People are falling ill more quickly, according to the World Health Organization. More than 40 percent of infections happened in the past 21 days.

Here’s a look at air traffic-flows going out of West Africa, via PLOS Currents:

ebolatrafficconnections4-600x407 (1)

3. The head of the CDC is worried that the window of opportunity to contain the disease is closing.

“The window of opportunity to stop Ebola from spreading widely throughout Africa and becoming a global threat for years to come is closing, but it is not yet closed,” Director Tom Frieden said in a press release Tuesday.  “If the world takes the immediate steps — which are direct requests from the front lines of the outbreak and the Presidents of each country — we can still turn this around.”

Also on Tuesday, Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, said in a speech,Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain.”

4. Containing the world’s first Ebola epidemic will cost more than $430 million.

The World Health Organization aims to stop all transmissions of the disease in six to nine months, Bloomberg News reported. Funding should come from governments, development banks and private businesses, the organization said.

5. 26 percent of Americans worry they’ll catch Ebola in the next year — even though no one has reported catching Ebola on U.S. soil.

A Harvard School of Public Health survey showed that 39 percent of adults worry there will be a large outbreak in the United States. Twenty-six percent are concerned that they may fall ill with Ebola over the next year.

As the worst Ebola outbreak in history unfolds in West Africa, The Post's Joel Achenbach explains how the deadly virus wreaks havoc on the human body. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

6. Ebola can be difficult to catch.

It can be quite hard to contract Ebola. It’s not generally airborne, and a person can catch Ebola only from someone who is symptomatic.

7. Ebola has exacerbated hunger in West Africa.

Up to 1 million West Africans now need food rations, according to the World Food Program, Ken Isaacs wrote in the New York Times. One reason: Disease-containing efforts have barred market traders from entering or leaving Liberia’s capital.

8. Computer simulations may help us predict the path of Ebola.

Northeastern University Professor Alessandro Vespignani creates models with data about, for example, air travel. Ebola may be headed next to Gambia, Ghana and Senegal, his research shows. “There is a tangible risk of spreading in the region to other countries,” Vespignani told National Public Radio, “probably in the ballpark of 20 to 30 percent in the next few weeks.”

More on Ebola:

Why you’re not going to get Ebola in the U.S.

The U.S. public still doesn’t understand Ebola


Danielle Paquette is a reporter covering the intersection of people and policy. She’s from Indianapolis and previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times. Follow her on Twitter: @Dpaqreport.



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Todd C. Frankel · September 3, 2014