Thursday, October 23, 2014

the ebola done partying in december

motherboard | Part of the allure of epidemiology is being able to describe and predict highly dynamic outbreaks with simple, clean mathematical models. But how close can models really get to perfectly mapping the spread of disease? 
Modeling how disease spreads early in an outbreak is a major challenge as sample sizes remain low and variables high. But a recently-developed method of making short-term outbreak projections called the IDEA model has shown promise, and is even doing an excellent job of tracking the current Ebola outbreak.
"If validated, the implications of such a finding may be profound," wrote the model's creators in an open-access 2013 paper in PLOS One, "e.g., the ability to project, with a high degree of accuracy, the final size and duration of a seasonal influenza outbreak within 2 weeks of onset."
The graph above shows how the model is faring with the current Ebola outbreak. So far, it's nearly perfect. If the IDEA model continues to predict the epidemic with the same accuracy, we can expect Ebola to start burning out in December, with a total of 14,000 cases. Currently, according to the CDC there are or have been 8,400. We have a ways to go