The Incredible Shrinking Ebola Epidemic

In a sense, everything you need to know about the veracity of those nightmarish Ebola epidemic projections was summarized in the October 14 press conference held by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Ebola head, Bruce Aylward. He said: currently there were about a thousand new cases a week; it’s “too early to say” whether “the epidemic [is] slowing down” [emphasis added] or there’s “exponential growth,” and; “we anticipate that the number of cases occurring per week by [December] is going to be somewhere between five and 10 thousand.”

Whoa, Nelly! Even as he says it’s possible the growth in new cases is declining, he predicts a five to 10-fold explosion within weeks.

Yes, the WHO is fibbing, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as I discuss in great detail in the current issue of the French (but English-language) science journal Inference. They have been all along. The WHO has called it the “worst health crisis in modern times.” Worse than the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19, which extrapolated to today’s world population would mean 60-150 million deaths? Worse than AIDS with about 35 million deaths? Yet CDC Director Thomas Frieden also compared the Ebola outbreak to AIDS.

Fact is, Aylward must know there’s been no increase in new cases at least since early September. Says who? WHO. In its online weekly situation updates. The Wikipedia editor of the “Ebola Virus in West Africa” entry presents new WHO data as they’re released, every three days or so, and maintains a graph current through October 19.
Source: Wikipedia West Africa Ebola Entry

Those last two bars reflect a huge number of “suspected” and “probable cases,” indicating the WHO may be getting desperate to keep the numbers up. Only half the cases in the October 22 report are confirmed. But at the very least, cases have plateaued – six weeks is no anomaly. And they flattened just before the WHO hit the panic button, insisting among other things it needed a billion-dollar infusion. (Remember this when they inevitably claim their projections proved false only because they made them so with their own super-human actions.)

How can this be? Because all epidemics are self-limiting.


In what’s called “Farr’s Law,” dating back to 1840, all epidemics follow a roughly bell-shaped curve. As the most vulnerable victims are nabbed first, one existing case leads to more than one. But eventually each new infection causes only one other, and then less than another. That’s why ultimately all, since before the Plague of Athens (433 BC) are self-limiting. They peak and fall without benefit of a CDC, WHO, vaccines, or effective treatments.

Which is not to say that humans cannot influence an epidemic to make it curve and decline more rapidly. But even in the modern era, by the time the authorities realize what’s happened, the epidemic may well have peaked. AIDS infections in the U.S. did so in 1985, yet the federal government campaign didn’t kick in until two years later.

But the CDC and WHO both ignored Farr’s Law in their calculations, with CDC explicitly stating its incredible presumption that cases would continue to double at the same rate they did in August during the exponential phase, every 20 days, all the way out till January. In fact, the October 8 WHO situation report shows doubling stretched to every 60 days, and by October 15 every 68.

Thus, those spooky published estimates are already crumbling. The CDC gave a range of 550,000 to 1.4 million cases as of January 20 of next year, but widely ignored was its other estimate of 8,000 – 21,000 cases by September 30. Yet fewer than 7,500 cases were reported by then, including “probable” and “suspected.” Likewise requiescat in pace a published model highlighted by the esteemed journal Science estimating 10,000 cases by 24 September, and hundreds of thousands in the months thereafter.

The WHO analysis indicated more than 20,000 cases by November 2. With fewer than 10,000 cases including probable and suspected as of October 19, and fewer than a thousand reported in the previous week, the agency will have to dig hard to come up with 10,000 more in just two weeks.


Regard’s Aylward’s astonishing projection, obviously Farr’s Law doesn’t have much to say about a steadily slowing epidemic that come December not only reverses itself but goes thermonuclear. Nor does the WHO’s Web site. There’s nothing there about it. When I initially called the WHO to find the source of this prediction they merely provided a restatement. “WHO projections suggest that West Africa could see up to 5,000-10,000 Ebola cases a week by the beginning of December if current trends continue.” No good.

So I emailed them. This time they responded in more detail:

Put simply and briefly: about 1,000 cases were reported to WHO in the week starting September 15. At that point, case incidence was doubling every 4.3 weeks. If that rate of increase continues there will be about 5,000 cases in the 1st week of December. But we might be seeing only half of the true number of cases, so there could be 10,000 in total.

They’re confusing overall cases with all that actually matters, new cases. As we’ve observed, there’s been no increase in new case incidence since mid-September. Assuming WHO’s fiction though, then yes by mid-October you’d have 2,000 cases, on November 15, 4000, and on December 15 about 8,000 more cases than the September 15 baseline. Two weeks earlier, December 1, would be roughly 5,000 cases more than mid-September.

It’s possible Aylward wasn’t lying at first, but rather was confused. Nevertheless, by not later admitting that he put out false numbers, at that point he was intentionally deceiving us – and the entire WHO along with him and cooked up a recipe to fit the numbers.

And the 10,000? Just added for good measure. Although it hints at a nihilist position the WHO may be moving towards, that it can no longer accurately count of new cases. Rather like the spoiled kid who, realizing he’s losing at checkers, fakes a sneeze and knocks over the board. But why would they be missing more cases than previously, even as one would expect that with massive infusion of financial aid and with more data collection experience their counts would become more accurate? Not to mention that two whole countries, Nigeria and Senegal, are no longer even reporting cases, now officially Ebola-free. Yes, the WHO’s Ebola epidemic region has been reduced to only three countries.

And of course, each week that awesome January 20 CDC estimate keeps falling farther and farther behind. As they knew it would. It had but one purpose: to terrify. And it worked. It always does.

Time and again beginning with AIDS, both agencies have grossly exaggerated disease outbreaks. That includes Ebola twice before, SARS, avian flu, swine flu, and Mideast Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). I debunked most of those at the time, but the health agencies know that nothing they ever pipe will be so outrageous that the mainstream media won’t dance to their tune.

Meanwhile endemic diseases that don’t make headlines, like tuberculosis, malaria, and infectious childhood diarrhea, each kill more people every two days than have died of Ebola in 28 years. Shouldn’t we care more about that?

Sadly, the CDC and WHO have spent decades crying about monsters in the closet, thereby distracting us from the very real ones in our midst.

Ebola Texting

About the Author
Michael Fumento is an attorney, author, and photo-journalist and US Army Airborne veteran who saw combat as a photo-journalist in Iraq and embedded in Afghanistan as well. He thus has no stomach for sissies. He is author of five published books and over 800 articles for major publications worldwide, and for many years was on staff at several US think tanks. He currently resides in Colorado, USA.