To those who worry about the risk of a global Ebola pandemic, catastrophe modeler RMS is essentially saying, “relax.”
In a new blog entry on the company’s web site, RMS acknowledged that the World Health Organization dubbed the outbreak (the largest of its kind to date concerning Ebola) a “public health emergency of international concern.” But a global pandemic isn’t likely to happen, RMS experts Mary Chang and Rebecca Vessenes said in their posting.
“Even if the disease were to spread to other regions of the world, Ebola is still considered a rare disease and the transmissibility is likely to be much lower due to quarantine and infection-control measures, even if the [case fatality rate] remains high,” RMS noted in the blog item. “We have not seen any community transmission outside of Africa, and this is expected to continue.”
RMS notes, however, that Ebola is a “very serious disease, with devastating consequences to impacted communities.” Underscoring that point, The New York Times reported on Aug. 20 that the death toll from Ebola in West Africa (the outbreak’s epicenter) has now topped 1,200. The virus, native to Africa, can cause heavy bleeding, a kind of hemorrhagic fever and problems with coagulation. Many patients die within days once they contract Ebola.
RMS said it evaluates infectious disease pandemics with its LifeRisks Infectious Disease model, which projects excess mortality risk for existing infectious diseases including influenza, plus newly emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola. In using this model, RMS said it evaluates the virulence of the disease, and how transmittable the pathogen responsible for causing the disease actually is.
Meanwhile, risk management company Lockton recommends that companies concerned about Ebola stay informed, develop and activate contingency plans that help protect employees’ health and safety, focus on prevention, and rely on insurance to potentially help mitigate some of the costs relating to Ebola preparedness.