Almost 3,000 West Africans have died from the current outbreak of Ebola virus, and on Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that by January between 550,000 and 1.4 million people could be infected if nothing is done.
But the outbreak, which began in Guinea in March before spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, is only part of the terrifying picture. Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.
As a result, "the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down," according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.
Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.
So it's a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, "If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become 'a permanent feature of life in West Africa.'"