In case you didn’t notice, the CDC Director visited West Africa last week, and returned with not-very-good news.[1] Specifically, he went to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and reported on efforts there to contain the current Ebola outbreak. He said “[t]he window of opportunity to stop Ebola from spreading widely throughout Africa and becoming a global threat for years to come is closing, but it is not yet closed.”[2]

On background, the CDC says ‘[t]he official case count and death toll in the current outbreak exceeds cases and deaths from all previous Ebola outbreaks combined.”[3] Unfortunately the official statistics tell only part of the story. They “greatly underestimate the actual numbers of cases and deaths and do not adequately describe the outbreak’s toll in human lives, health care and societal disruption, and economic loss.”[4]

So, what is the chance that Ebola can be stopped in West Africa? The CDC, and its Director, aren’t offering odds on that right now. But CDC supports the World Health Organization’s recent call for a $490 million initiative to combat the current outbreak.[5] We reported on that last time, and noted that, following the WHO program, the Ebola epidemic is expected to top out at 20,000 cases in 6 months.[6]

You and I have no control over any of this, except possibly in the voting booth, but of course we have a real stake in the outcome. No voter wants Ebola in his or her neighborhood. So how can we at least know what’s happening as our bureaucrats and politicians thrash around with this problem? Well, it just so happens that we here at the Zoo have developed a cheat sheet for tracking what’s actually going to happen. It’s yours for the asking – or the downloading – at this site.

Basically the sheet sets out two scenarios –

  • The first, where cases double every 34.8 days – we call that the Armageddon Scenario – until everybody gets Ebola; and
  • The second, where cases accumulate for 6 months and top out at 20,000, or possibly accumulate on a straight line basis for a period of 2 or more years.

We’re not making predictions here. We have no “favorite” scenario. Instead we leave a blank column, where you, the reader, can fill in actual data as it becomes available. After you’ve done that, it’s up to you to compare the results for a particular date with the relevant projections.

To the extent your results track the Armageddon Scenario, that’s bad. If they’re closer to the WHO projections, that’s better. If they’re someplace in between, well, then you decide. I would be uncomfortable, and would let my elected representatives know about it.

Nothing beats a good set of metrics for evaluating a complex situation. I think Don Rumsfeld said that.

[Note: Originally we intended to include a .pdf copy of the Cheat Sheet with this blog post, so that anyone interested could download it directly. Apparently that’s not possible with WordPress. So if you’re interested in that document – and you should be – just write G. Sallust at and one will be provided by return email.]


[1] See CDC, Press Release, CDC warns Ebola epidemic in West Africa is outpacing current response (September 2, 2014) (hereafter Sept. 2 Ebola Press Release at __) available at

[2] See Sept. 2 Ebola Press Release at p. 2 of 2.

[3] See Sept. 2 Ebola Press Release at p. 2 of 2.

[4] Id.

[5] See World Health Organization, Ebola Response Roadmap (28 August 2014) (hereafter cited as WHO Roadmap at __), available at

[6] See WHO Roadmap at p. 23, Table 4.