As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa spread, researchers from several institutions including University of Florida’s Ira Longini, PhD, predicted isolated cases would have a 20 percent chance in making their way to the United States.
Longini, a professor in the department of biostatistics and co-director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at UF, studies mathematical modeling of infectious disease as well as the design and analysis of infectious disease transmission and intervention studies.
Longini says, “[It's recommended] that the surveillance containment be done as efficiently as possible on the affected countries,” says Longini. “That is, the isolation and treatment of cases, and the contact tracing and quarantine of close contacts.”
“We've just instituted an airport screening in five of the major air hubs in the U.S. where all people coming from affected countries will have their temperature taken and will be asked questions and [screened],” Longini says. “We'll see how effective that is and how much tolerance there will be for lines and immigration lines in those affected airports.”
In terms of transmission, surveillance, and containment, Longini ranks the level of importance in controlling travel.
“Very far down on the list is the control of movement of people, which on the surface looks like it's important, but it's so difficult to carry out,” he says. “I don't think that that's going to have a big impact on the spread of the epidemic.”
Based on containment methods available in the United States, Longini believes the U.S. will not see 100 cases of Ebola.
“Unless the epidemic continues to be completely out of control and more countries are affected and it gets much larger, I wouldn't expect to see more than a handful of cases in the U.S. Certainly no number near a hundred — maybe four or five over the next few months.”
The study in which Longini was involved that predicts the transmission of Ebola out of West Africa can be read here: http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/assessing-the-international-spreading-risk-associated-with-the-2014-west-african-ebola-outbreak/