Experts: 130 Ebola cases in U.S. by year end; ‘handful’ in every major city

Experts: 130 Ebola cases in U.S. by year end; ‘handful’ in every major city

No one knows for sure how many infections will emerge in the U.S. or anywhere else, but scientists have made educated guesses based on data models that weigh hundreds of variables, including daily new infections in West Africa, airline traffic worldwide and transmission possibilities.

This week, several top infectious disease experts ran simulations for The Associated Press that predicted as few as one or two additional infections by the end of 2014 to a worst-case scenario of 130.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a huge outbreak here, no,” said Dr. David Relman, a professor of infectious disease, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University’s medical school. “However, as best we can tell right now, it is quite possible that every major city will see at least a handful of cases.” …

Pandemic risk expert Dominic Smith, a senior manager for life risks at Newark, California-based RMS, a leading catastrophe-modeling firm, ran a U.S. simulation this week that projected 15 to 130 cases between now and the end of December. That’s less than one case per 2 million people.

Smith’s method assumes that most cases imported to the U.S. will be American medical professionals who worked in West Africa and returned home. …

The foreseeable future extends only for the next few months. After that, projections depend entirely on what happens in West Africa. One scenario is that the surge in assistance to the region brings the epidemic under control and cases peter out in the U.S. A second scenario involves Ebola spreading unchecked across international borders.

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