Ebola still going strong in Liberia

Back in early March, the mainstream media was excitedly publishing stories about Liberia purportedly discharging its last Ebola patient and awaiting formal "Ebola-free" status.  Of course, back in mid-January, the major outlets were also reporting that Liberia "aims to be Ebola-free by end-February."

How wrong they all were.

In Canada, we were even witness to the bizarre publication of an opinion piece in a national newspaper by a prospective university student from Liberia who requested that Prime Minister Stephen Harper lift Canada's Ebola-related travel ban from West African countries.  Somehow it seems like a bad idea to place Canadian citizens at risk from a disease with a nearly 50-percent fatality rate and tens of thousands of victims just so a few foreign students from the afflicted area can enrol in post-secondary courses in Canada.  The cost of a single Ebola scare in a developed nation, never mind an actual case of Ebola, far outweighs any socioeconomic benefits from a small number of visiting foreign students.

But, as conservatives well know, Ebola has been highly politicized.  Because a number of American and Canadian politicians on the right side of the political spectrum (e.g., Rand Paul, Stephen Harper's government, etc.) correctly expressed serious concerns over Ebola, the left-wing science/medicine and journalism establishment automatically adopted the contrarian view that there is nothing for us to be worried about here in the West.  Another textbook example of how science is not objective – it has been converted into a tool that the liberals use to attack conservatives and thereby manipulate public opinion to further their political desires.

The reason why there have been so few cases of Ebola in the West is because we became so concerned about it.  Had some sensible conservative politicians not raised their fears in public, we may have been looking at a near-repeat of the infamous 1918 influenza epidemic – which infected nearly one third of the global population and killed upwards of 5 percent of all people on the planet at that time.

The notion of Liberia being Ebola-free in early March was ridiculous at the time just by looking at the time series of cases in the country over the previous year.  Epidemics do not just end abruptly after a long period of a linear increase in their case numbers.  More generally, we see sigmoidal (S-shaped) patterns whereby the epidemic slowly tails off.

The graph below shows the total cumulative number of Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in early 2014.  The black arrow points to the period in early March when the media were falling over themselves to report that Liberia was awaiting Ebola-free status.

Even a cursory glance at the data shows that Liberia had been experiencing a near linear rate of increase in cases since December.  Thus, there was no reason to expect a total halt to all new cases in early March.  Indeed, the linear trend has continued up to the present – with a thousand new cases since March 4.

Ebola cases are tailing off in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and their cumulative case time series exhibit the classic sigmoidal shape.  By comparison, Liberia's data is very unusual, and one wonders if it is accurate or whether it has been manipulated for political purposes at various times.

It is clear that Ebola is still going strong in Liberia with no end in sight, further validating the concerns many had – and still have – over Ebola's lasting impacts in West Africa and risks to the West.

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