Research shows that the key element to decrease the spread of Ebola is to change funeral practices. Current funerals are now serving as Superspreader events where people touch or kiss the bodies at the most infectious time.
This open online paper shows that a change in funeral practices is the imperative change needed to stop the spread of the disease.: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/10/29/science.1260612.full
I wanted to know why this outbreak of Ebola was so much worse than previous outbreaks. How is it spreading and which actions could possibly limit the spread the fastest?
**How infectious is Ebola?**
The basic reproduction number (R0), or how many people get infected from each infected individual, is low in the case of Ebola and this outbreak is no exception. On average 1,63 people get infected from each sick person and that is even less than in previous outbreaks where numbers ranged from 1,8-2,7. If this number stays above 1 then more people are getting sick. If we bring it under 1 then the outbreak will slowly stop. For comparison measles has an R0 of 12-18 and influenza has an R0 of 2-3.
**How does Ebola spread**
Ebola is a virus that only spreads through bodily fluids that have a high enough viral load. It is not until at later stages of the disease that people have enough viral load and weak skin that they infect people directly during touch. Thus people are the most infectious when dying or dead.
Recent research has calculated the expected impact of different routes of spread. Their results were:
1) If we stop all spread of the disease between Hospital patients and staff the R0 will drop to 1,44.
2) If we stop the spread of the disease from sick people out in the community we could drop the R0 to 1.39.
3) If we could stop the spread of the disease during funerals we could drop the spread of the disease to 0,93.
This means that if we could only stop all the spread during funerals we could slowly stop the outbreak, even if nothing else is done.
Although the fight against Ebola should be fought on all fronts this shows us an area where Return On Investment might be the highest.