Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have revealed that the number of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone could have been halved if treatment beds had been set up by the UK government and charities just one month earlier.
Dr Adam Kucharski, lecturer in infectious disease epidemiology, and colleagues from the LSHTM said this massive intervention prevented 57,000 cases of Ebola, saving 40,000 lives. But if the help had arrived a month earlier, it would have halved the numbers who were infected.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Sierra Leone has been home to 13,945 confirmed cases of Ebola since the current outbreak was first identified in March 2014. The country's toll amounts to nearly half of the 28,457 reported cases seen worldwide, though it is believed that these numbers underestimate the true count.
Between September 2014 and February 2015, Britain introduced more than 1,500 beds into Ebola holding centers and community centers and 1,200 beds into specialized treatment units, with the volunteer staff and equipment to run them.
The LSHTM team said that had the beds been available earlier, 7,500 of those would have been spared the disease.
"Our analysis suggests that putting treatment beds in place just one month earlier could have further reduced the size of the outbreak and potentially saved thousands of more lives. The way we prepare for, and respond to, future outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases needs to be strengthened," said study co-author Professor John Edmunds.