Posted on September 5, 2014

Study Simulates Likelihood of Ebola Spread

Matt Picht, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 5, 2014

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to worsen at an alarming rate, health officials have issued increasingly dire warnings about the possibility of a global outbreak.

“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” Doctors Without Borders International President Joanne Liu said to PBS.

“Every day this outbreak goes on, it increases the risk for another export to another country,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said to CNN:

Now, a new analysis published this week in PLOS Currents: Outbreaks has shed some light on the possibility of Ebola traveling outside of West Africa.

Using WHO data, researchers simulated potential situations where Ebola could spread to other countries by studying air traffic patterns and mobility between infected and non-infected countries. They ran simulations on two dates, Sept. 1 and Sept. 22. Their predictions show a sharp increase in the probability of another country getting infected. At the beginning of the month, the U.S. had only a five percent chance of importing an outbreak. By the 22nd, the probability jumps up to 18 percent.

“What is happening in West Africa is going to get here. We can’t escape that at this point. . . . Sooner or later, they will arrive,” Alessandro Vespignani, the study’s author, told NPR.

{snip} Contrast that with the U.K., which has an infection risk of 25-28 percent by the end of the month.