CDC: Ebola cases could hit 1.4M by January

The Ebola epidemic could swell to 1.4 million cases by January without additional help to fight the disease, according to estimates released Tuesday by the government. 

A new data model from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) seeks to illustrate what would happen in West Africa without new interventions by the international community. 

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"Delay is extremely costly in terms of lives," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "The importance of implementing effective programs rapidly can't be overemphasized." 

At the same time, officials said their figures reflected the status quo in August, before the United States announced a large-scale action plan to fight Ebola. 

"Events on the ground have changed quite a bit. … We're seeing a rapid scale-up of the response," Frieden said. He said the agency would likely update its numbers in a month. 

"It's definitely still possible to reverse the epidemic. That's why the initiatives announced by President Obama last week … are so incredibly important and are exactly what is needed to reverse the epidemic." 

The report extrapolates trends from August to Jan. 20, 2015. It concludes that approximately 550,000 Ebola cases could exist in Liberia and Sierra Leone by that time, or 1.4 million when underreporting is accounted for, without additional action.

The CDC model is intended to serve two purposes: let workers on the ground project outcomes based on their data, and motivate further anti-Ebola efforts.

Frieden has spent weeks sounding the alarm about the epidemic around the world and at the White House, where he convinced President Obama to commit new resources on the ground.

He said that, while the 1.5 million figure is not up-to-date, it can help ensure the world works swiftly to counter Ebola.

"That's what we hope and anticipate this will result in," Frieden said.

—This post was updated at 11:10 a.m.