An anniversary assessment for Ebola

March 20, 2015

Ebola marks a dubious birthday this weekend. Guinea first confirmed the current outbreak of the virus on March 22, 2014, and by the time the world took notice, the situation looked dire: Last September, the CDC saw a possible worst case scenario of as many as 1.4 million cases. But the world health community proved up to the challenge, and while the virus has sickened nearly 25,000 and killed more than 10,000, it has fallen short of the worst-case predictions.

Better yet, containment appears on the horizon. As this Reuters graphic shows, since peaking in late 2014, reports of new Ebola cases have fallen sharply this year in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. With an apparent light at the end of the tunnel, Sierra Leone announced plans to confine residents to their homes in Ebola hotspots in an effort to stifle the last throes of the epidemic. Guinea has reported an increase in cases in March, but that could be attributed to expanded access to hidden patients rather than an uptick of new cases.

Meanwhile, with future outbreaks in mind, this week the FDA announced it will discuss the development of an Ebola vaccine at a meeting in May. Some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are pursuing potential treatments, but the World Health Organization will not announce a decision on mass vaccinations until August at the earliest.

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