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Ebola heads off to Europe

By late October, with a probability of 75% the Ebola virus will be in France, with a probability of 50% - in the UK.

Ebola heads to Europe

An effective way to reduce the threat is to reduce flights from West Africa: 80% air traffic decrease will reduce the risk more than twice.

The specialists of Northeastern University in Boston, led by Professor Alex Vespignani tried to model the spread of the hemorrhagic Ebola fever in West Africa and its step beyond the continent. They took the behavior of the virus in the period from July 6 to August 9, 2014 as a starting point. The results were published in the PLOS Currents Outbreaks magazine.

Nevertheless, epidemic condition worsens like an avalanche, the number of victims is growing rapidly every day.

Thus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN), the number of deaths from Ebola virus at 4 October reached 3439 people. In total, there are recorded 7492 cases of infection.

Therefore, after writing the article the scientists have found it necessary to recalculate their model and published new data with the virus spread prediction for October 24, 2014.

The scientists used global model estimates of the epidemic and population mobility (Global Epidemic and Mobility Model) to simulate the spread of the Ebola virus in 3362 populations of people in 220 countries. In assessing the spread of the virus within the country, they considered the possibility of its transmission in public places, hospitals and during funeral rituals.

The ability of the virus export to other countries was calculated due to the mobility of the population, mainly through air travels, so the model foresaw flights from West Africa all over the world.

According to initial estimates, published in the article, in the countries of West Africa the epidemic will grow rapidly, within 3-6 months the number of victims could increase by 1.5-2 times. But according to the updated latest data, by October 24, it is predicted that the number of infection cases would be ranging from 14 800 to 38 500.

As for the export of the virus to other countries, the researchers evaluated this probability as low one (less than 5%). Now they have published quite different figures.

By October 24, the risk of getting Ebola virus in France is 75%, in the UK – 50%, in Belgium – 40%, in Switzerland – 20%. Less than 20% – in Spain, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal. The experts consider France as the country that is at risk the most due to the fact that Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are French-speaking countries, as they are former French colonies.

The scientists believe that an effective measure against the spread of the virus to other countries would be air traffic decrease from West Africa by 80%.

Taking into account such reduction, the chance of catching the virus for France is 25%, for the United States – 20%, for the UK – 15%, for the other European countries and Canada – 5% or less. But this initiative is unlike to be supported at high level. The White House has opposed the closure of the West Africa borders because of the danger of the Ebola virus spread. "We believe those types of steps actually impede the response," said the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco. According to her, in case of travel ban the United States and its partners will not be able to deliver the necessary equipment and other assistance to the regions affected by the epidemic.

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