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Despite dire Ebola model, CDC head is optimistic

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Posted at 10:52 AM, Sep 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-23 17:28:19-04

The Ebola epidemic sweeping through West Africa could reach 1.4 million cases by mid-January, according to a worst-case scenario projection the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The predictions come from a new Ebola modeling tool that the CDC released Tuesday.

Liberia and Sierra Leone could have more than 20,000 cases of Ebola within the next week, in the CDC’s worst-case scenario. The low end of the estimate is 8,000 cases.

CDC director Tom Frieden said Tuesday that the epidemic can be turned around – if the world works fast enough to isolate cases of the disease.

“Even in dire scenarios, if we move fast enough, we can turn it around,” Frieden said in a conference call with reporters. “And I’m confident that the most dire projections are not going to come to pass, given what we've already seen on the ground.”

According to the New York Times, the best-case scenario “assumes the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission,” nearly ending the epidemic in both countries by mid-January.

As of today, the World Health Organization says there are more than 5,800 cases of Ebola, which includes more than 2,800 deaths. The outbreak far outpaces previous ones. From 1976 to 2012, WHO reported 2,387 total deaths from Ebola outbreaks.

"This week marks six months since WHO was notified of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea," the WHO website says. "This outbreak has since evolved into the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak in the history of the disease."

Recently, the CDC released a new list of flight guidelines to address the threat of Ebola virus.

The guidelines were released as 3,000 U.S. troops began to deploy to countries in West Africa ravaged by the virus, in order to set up aid stations and provide relief. Thousands of American military forces will be moving into Africa over the next 30 days to set up facilities and form training teams to help the Africans treat Ebola victims.

Scientists from Washington to Oxford are racing to develop a promising new vaccine against Ebola. Trials in Africa are expected to begin as soon as October.

Learn more about Ebola in this Newsy video: