Around the country, treatment centers, laboratory workers who test for Ebola, and international and national health officials trying to track the epidemic have noticed an unexpected pattern: There are far fewer people being treated for Ebola than anticipated.
Some consider the latest developments an indication that the efforts to combat the virus, including the opening of new treatment units, are beginning to succeed.
There is also the likelihood that many people dying of Ebola in Liberia are hidden from the authorities, as has been true throughout the epidemic.
Many parts of the country are not well monitored, many contacts of Ebola patients are not traced, and officials have long acknowledged that the statistics on the numbers of Ebola cases across West Africa are rough estimates, at best.Not only are Ebola cases rough estimates, the number and causes of deaths in general are rough estimates throughout Africa. I was thinking about this today when Marta Jankowska linked me to a new issue of Global Health Action, which just published a special issue on death data collected and analyzed by the INDEPTH Network. They have research centers in Africa and Asia that aim to figure out the otherwise unknowable. Systems of vital registration are few and far between in much of Africa and Asia, so what we know about mortality comes from surveys and from the INDEPTH sites, along with questions about deaths of family members that have been inserted into recent population censuses. Unfortunately, as you can from the map below, none of the three Ebola-impacted countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, has an INDEPTH site, so we are even more ignorant than normal about what's going on in those places.