Why We Don’t Know The Real Ebola Mortality Rate In The U.S.

How likely is someone who gets treated for Ebola in the United States to die of the disease?  The data news blog FiveThirtyEight recently posed this question in light of recent events related to the disease here in the United States.

“About two-thirds of the 2,387 people who’d contracted the disease before this year’s outbreak died worldwide. The fatality rate of more than 14,000 people who have been infected with Ebola in West Africa this year is 71 percent. But eight of the nine people who have been treated for the disease in the U.S. have recovered and been released from the hospital. One person has died. It’s not obvious, even to statisticians and public-health experts, how to combine all this information,” the article stated.

One option is to treat all the cases the same, in which case incorporating the nine U.S. cases would leave the average mortality rate unchanged. Another option is to treat each of these nine U.S. cases separately. Taking into account the United State’s greater resources, earlier detection and a much smaller caseload, that would leave you with an estimate of just an 11 percent mortality rate for Ebola in the U.S., according to FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bailik.

CPH epidemiologist Andreas Handel commented:

“Most people would probably agree that the right way to do it is between those two extremes,” Andreas Handel, an assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, said in an email. He added: “My guess is if you ask 10 Bayesians (or statisticians/experts in general) you’ll get about 10 different answers. There is no one right way of doing it.”

Read the entire article at FiveThirtyEight.

Posted November 13, 2014.