Expert predicts 1.2 million deaths if Ebola virus goes airborne

Monday, September 15, 2014
By Paul Martin
September 15, 2014

AFRICA – Econometrics expert Francis Smart has predicted that if the Ebola virus does mutate into an airborne form, 1.2 million people will die from the disease. Smart, from the Michigan State University, published an article in Econometrics by Stimulation in which he outlined the mechanics of his prediction based on the research done by others. Currently the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that Ebola will kill 20,000 people within the next six months. Smart argues that this number is based on the assumption that the virus will not mutate into a version of itself which travels though air. Smart used an econometric stimulation model and based his calculations on the prediction of 20,000 infections in six months that the WHO had previously issued. He also looked at the struggles facing the countries that are currently fighting the Ebola virus. Liberia in particular is facing huge issues as far as controlling the spread of disease is concerned. Medical supplies are desperately low, health workers and doctors are contracting the disease themselves, and there is a degree of civil unrest as panic sets in.

The WHO has predicted that six months is optimistic. This is the minimum amount of time that they think is needed in order to stop the disease from spreading. The statement in which they offered the prediction of 20,000 infections was published on Aug. 28, almost three weeks ago. The estimate was made in the assumption that the Ebola outbreak control effort would receive compete international back up and that every step in the plan that the WHO had drawn up to tackle the disease spread would be followed. Should international aid not be sufficient, or the plan not be executed sufficiently, the prediction was that the number of people infected with the virus would be far greater. The prediction was also made under the assumption that the virus would not mutate into an airborne form. This, according to experts such as Michael Osterholm, is a big assumption. Osterholm, Director at Minnesota University’s Center for Infectious Disease research and Policy, explains that viruses do mutate, and to assume that this one will not could be a mistake. Other strains of the Ebola virus, such as Ebola Reston, have previously demonstrated the ability to mutate into airborne versions of themselves. Osterholm says that due to the density of the spread in the most recent outbreak in West Africa, there is the chance that the virus could change itself each time it replicates.

Smart says that death toll numbers based on the more pessimistic opinion that the Ebola virus could mutate and go airborne are much greater. He believes that 20,000 is “vastly too small” and the prediction is “entirely based on effective and well-funded international relief mission..”He went on to predict that by Oct. 24 there will already be over 20,000 cases of the disease, a far shorter time period that the six months that the WHO predicted. Smart continues his analysis to conclude that as many as 4.7 million people will become infected and 1.2 million will die. –Guardian

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