Liberia, struck by an Ebola outbreak with a death toll of 3,496, could see an end to the epidemic by June 2015 if 85 percent of sick people get hospital care, according to researchers at the University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University. Lead author John Drake, an associate professor in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology, said, "That's a realistic possibility but not a foregone conclusion. What's needed is to maintain the current level of vigilance and keep pressing forward as hard as we can." Researchers used data from the World Health Organization and the Liberia Ministry of Health for the period from July 4 to September 2, 2014 to describe a model that includes factors like the location of infection and treatment, the development of hospital capacity and the adoption of safe burial practices. The researchers further refined their model in December 2014 to account for the addition of more hospital beds and safer burial practices. The model has also taken into account variables like how many patients are hospitalized and how many health care workers are infected, rates of transmission from funerals where the corpses of victims are touched and kissed, and the relative effectiveness of Ebola control measures.
Researchers said, "Response by the Liberian government and international groups has greatly reduced the likelihood of a massive epidemic." New cases have begun to decline in recent weeks, and schools are set to reopen next month after closing in July 2014 as the nation struggled with the fast-moving outbreak of hemorrhagic fever. The US researchers said that if the trend towards better hospitalization and preventive care continues, the end of the deadly ordeal may be in sight.
The model appears in the journal PLOS Biology.