The Role of Public Health in the Epidemic

Science played an essential role in prevention efforts throughout the West African epidemic, helping to eventually contain the spread and end the outbreak. Various scientific fields were called upon to address the wide-ranging issues caused by Ebola. Through laboratory testing, researchers gained a better understanding of the virus to develop effective vaccines. Cutting-edge technology increased overall capacity and enabled health care providers to detect infection at a faster pace.

Epidemiologists employed contact tracing methods to track down cases, implement isolation procedures, and identify disease patterns and trends. Mathematical modeling was also used to predict the progression of the outbreak, using real-world data to inform possible trajectories. These forecasts served as a guide for allocation of resources and personnel.

Scientists worked together to identify potential interventions that would improve knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to Ebola to effectively combat the disease.

Meltzer, Martin

Dr. Martin Meltzer describes his part in the agency's 2014-16 Ebola response, leading a modeling team that estimated case numbers, quantified the value of responding quickly, estimated costs for the response, and projected how much progress was needed to turn the tide of the epidemic. (Transcript)


On September 26, 2014, CDC published “Estimating the Future Number of Cases in the Ebola Epidemic—Liberia and Sierra Leone, 2014-15” in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Ebola Response, a modeling tool developed by CDC, estimates that without scale-up of prevention and control interventions, the number of cases in West Africa will rapidly reach extraordinary levels. CDC Director Dr. Frieden calls the estimates “a warning and call to action.” Read full report

4. The Role of Public Health in the Epidemic