The Ebola epidemic in Liberia could likely be eliminated by June if the current high rate of hospitalisation and vigilance can be maintained, a new model developed by ecologists has predicted.
The model, developed by ecologists at the University of Georgia and the Pennsylvania State University, includes factors such as the location of infection and treatment, the development of hospital capacity and the adoption of safe burial practices. "It is probably the first to include all those elements," said John Drake, associate professor at the University of Georgia in the US.
The model should be useful to public health officials, as they continue to combat the Ebola epidemic, because it offers both general insights and realistic forecasts, something few models are able to do.
During the fall of 2014, the authors ran the model for five different hospital capacity scenarios.
After the authors updated it with more recent information, the model projected that if an 85 percent hospitalisation rate can be achieved, the epidemic should be largely contained by June.
"That is a realistic possibility but not a foregone conclusion. What is needed is to maintain the current level of vigilance and keep pressing forward as hard as we can," Drake added.
Epidemic modelling is an important tool that helps public health officials design, target, and implement policies and procedures to control disease transmission.
To build this more complex model, Drake and his colleagues started with information gleaned from earlier Ebola outbreaks.
They included data about variables such as the numbers of patients hospitalized, health care workers infected; rates of transmission in hospitals, the community and from funerals; and the effectiveness of infection control measures.
So far, there have been more than 21,000 Ebola cases with more than 8,300 deaths since the outbreak began last year in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Liberia alone, 3,496 people have died from the virus in the latest outbreak, the WHO data showed.