An Outbreak of Epidemiological Hysteria
THERE HAVE been far fewer cases of, and deaths from, Ebola Virus Disease (hereinafter “Ebola”) during the period of the recent outbreak than from numerous other endemic diseases that primarily afflict Africans, such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and childhood diarrhea. Yet there is a widespread sense, in the media and among the public, that particularly urgent measures must be taken to combat Ebola. This is owed in large part to estimates of future cases produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their representatives have accompanied the presentation of these estimates with powerful rhetoric, as have representatives of other public health organizations. Headlines predictably focus on the upper bound of the CDC estimate, rather than providing the range. Yet both the WHO and the CDC have arrived at their distressingly high figures by ignoring epidemiological principles successfully applied since the nineteenth century. These indicate that Ebola infections and even cases may have already peaked.