The cost-effectiveness of public intervention seems like it must be higher than for any other disease. If it gets to 100,000 deaths, even if the valuation of life is as little as $10,000, the loss will be in the billions of dollars. I see governments and foundations donating $10m here, $20m there… Meanwhile, last year the French government spent about $270m in just six months for Operation Serval in northern Mali.
While previous outbreaks have been largely confined to rural areas, the current epidemic, the largest ever, has reached densely populated, impoverished cities — including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — gravely complicating efforts to control the spread of the disease. Alessandro Vespignani, a professor of computational sciences at Northeastern University who has been involved in the computer modeling of Ebola’s spread, said that if the case count reaches hundreds of thousands, “there will be little we can do.” What worries public health officials most is that the epidemic has begun to grow exponentially in Liberia. In the most recent week reported, Liberia had nearly 400 new cases, almost double the number reported the week before. Another grave concern, the W.H.O. said, is “evidence of substantial underreporting of cases and deaths.” The organization reported on Friday that the number of Ebola cases as of Sept. 7 was 4,366, including 2,218 deaths.