West Africa Ebola hospital projection
Photo by Leasmhar
A hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, West Africa, where the Ebola virus samples are tested to see if someone has the virus or not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that West Africa could see 550,000 cases of Ebola by Jan. 20, 2015, with an absolute worst-case scenario of 1.4 million infections.

The New York Times reported that the 1.4 million projection would only be reached if the “disease keeps following its current trajectory, without effective methods to contain it.”

According to Reuters:

     The top range of the estimate, 1.4 million, assumes that the number of cases officially cited so far, 5,864 according to the count kept by the World Health Organization, is significantly underreported, and that it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases, or nearly 20,000, have in fact occurred.

RELATED: What to Know About the Recent Ebola Virus Outbreak

     CDC emphasized that the projections, based on an epidemiological model that takes into account how many people each Ebola patient eventually infects as well as other factors, is based on data available in August. They therefore do not account for the recently announced U.S. government Ebola relief effort, which includes sending 3,000 members of the armed forces to the Ebola-stricken region.

“My gut feeling is, the actions we’re taking now are going to make that worst-case scenario not come to pass,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC director, told the New York Times. “But it’s important to understand that it could happen.”

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