Thursday 30 October 2014

The cost of stopping Ebola

The current death toll of nearly 5,000 means more people have been killed in the present ebola outbreak than in all previous ones put together. If you're wondering why the stricken countries in West Africa have been finding it so difficult to halt the epidemic, the Economist has crunched some interesting numbers.

Experts reckon ebola could be brought under control if 70% of the sick could be got into clinics or treatment centres where the spread of the virus can be halted, but to deal with the kind of case numbers being predicted for the next few weeks, that would require tens of thousands of beds.

Medecins Sans Frontieres and other charities, as well as governments like those of the US and the UK, have been busily building, but the WHO calculates that running just a 50-bed ebola hospital would cost nearly $1 million a month. No wonder the UN says a 20-fold increase in aid is needed.

And it's not just the buildings. The three countries where most people have died - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - have only a few hundred doctors between them, and some of those have now died of the disease. 

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