/ politics

Ebola Numbers

Something's fishy with the Ebola numbers. Or rather, the doom scenario's that are being sketched. We're being told by the CDC that cases could reach up to 1.4 million by the end of January next year, however, the numbers from the WHO simply don't support such claims.

There are three major constants used for calculating epidemic numbers: the Incubation period (time between exposure and becoming infectious), the Mortality rate and the Infection rate (R0, how many others a single infected person will infect). According to numbers from the WHO, I is between 2-20 days, M is between 68.6-72.8% and R0 between 1.71-2.02.

No matter how I plug these numbers in the calculation, the infections should be going down, not up, and the epidemic should die off somewhere next year. All these calculations assume a perfectly mixed society, where
everyone is at equal risk for infection, something which obviously isn't realistic.

Maintaining I and R0 at their most pessimistic values (2 days and 2.02 respectively), I need to drop the mortality rate all the way down to 65.4% (from the 70.8% that the WHO predicts with 95% probability) to make the numbers somewhat match up with the last two months of data. Projecting forward, this would result in 100K cases by the end of January.

To reach the doom scenario of 1.4M, I need to drop the mortality rate even further, to 64.2%, but if that were the case, we should be at three times the currently reported cases by now.

These kinds of discrepancies always make me suspicious. People aren't throwing out such numbers for fun, they always have some agenda. One possibility is the recent [citation needed] shift of focus from the treatment of diseases to developing vaccines to prevent diseases. While the prevention of diseases in itself is a lofty goal, there is also a significant risk of abuse.

For starters, the number of people who are at risk for a disease is vastly higher than the number of people actually having the disease, so the number of customers, ergo the profit for pharmaceuticals, is potentially orders of magnitude greater. Furthermore, in the United States, vaccines carry a much lower liability for pharmaceuticals thanks to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, and already there are calls for
full indemnification for Ebola vaccine makers. This further reduces the costs to develop vaccines, ergo greater profits.