Tens of thousands of lives were saved in Sierra Leone during the deadly Ebola outbreak due to supply of beds for Ebola patients to the health facilities. But providing them a month earlier could have halved the number of reported cases, said researchers.
Experts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM, said that the delivery of nearly 3,000 beds by Britain, Sierra Leone and aid agencies between September 2014 and February this year prevented 57,000 Ebola infections and 40,000 deaths.
However the study also found that introducing the beds one month earlier could have reduced the number of reported cases by 7,500 - more than half the 14,000 cases recorded in the West African nation by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Our findings show the unprecedented local and international response led to a substantial decline in Ebola transmission," said report lead author Adam Kucharski, lecturer in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the LSHTM.
The world's worst recorded Ebola outbreak has infected more than 28,000 and killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it began in December 2013, and is only now coming under control.
"There will almost certainly be more outbreaks of Ebola in the future, whether in West Africa or elsewhere, and it is crucial to make sure the response is ready faster next time," said Kucharski.
Increasing the number of beds in Ebola holding facilities, community care and treatment centers averted further infections by isolating patients from their communities, according to the study, which was published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research focused only on the impact of making more beds available because there was limited data on other measures such as community engagement, promoting safe burials and encouraging suspected Ebola patients to seek early treatment.
The last two known Ebola patients in Sierra Leone were released just over two weeks ago and began a new 42-day countdown for a virus free nation officially.