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The toll of a tragedy

Ebola is a viral disease with a high mortality rate that made headlines last year to 2015 due to an outbreak that occurred in West Africa. According to this article, the first reported case of the outbreak occurred in December of 2013 in Gueckedou. People took the disease past the Liberian border, and although it initially spread slow, it rapidly spread to have over 28000 cases by August 23rd, 2015. The outbreak continues to this day although the casualty rate has dropped substantially.

This ebola outbreak can be analyzed using the same epidemic models that we started in class. We learned in class that the basic reproductive number or Ro can be calculated to determine the branching process of the disease. As stated in the textbook and in this article, any Ro above 1 is not good since it means that the disease will persist by continuing to infect at least one person in each wave. Ro can be determined by figuring out the contact rate between people and how easily it spreads among people as well. Ebola is not considered a disease that can spread easily because it requires direct contact of bodily fluids. However, due to the inadequacies of health-care in the three most-affected countries, it raised the infection rate. Furthermore, lack of quarantines also raised the Ro value. As a result, regardless of if it is easily spread or not, the Ro value ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 for this disease. This basically meant that the chance of the outbreak dying out was 0 because there was a guarantee of infection in each wave.


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December 2015