By all indications, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to spread exponentially, that is to say that the rate of infection is increasing at an ever-increasing rate. According to the WHO, possibly 40,000 cases are present in West Africa, while projecting from past data says the number is around 25,000. Using the latter model, these seven signposts for the epidemic were established.
The purpose of this article is to provide a benchmark to evaluate the progress of the disease as it progresses. As these dates pass, readers will be able to evaluate whether conditions are continuing to spiral out of control unchecked, or if human efforts are stemming the tide of the disease.
December 12, 2014: 100,000 Cases
While the number is mostly important for psychological reasons, the 100,000 mark is important because it means there are approximately 2 Ebola cases for every doctor on the continent of Africa. If it gets to this point, the epidemic will not be even theoretically manageable with local resources.
January 5, 2015: 1% of Liberia, Guinea & Sierra Leone Infected
Each aircraft leaving the hot zone has roughly 100 passengers, and a 1% infection rate implies statistically that every plane leaving the hot zone will have an infected passenger aboard. Expect a travel ban around this time.
February 20, 2015: 1,000,000 Cases
Once again, 1 million isn't much different from 1.1 million, but with 1,000,000 infected (most of whom in the Guinea-Sierra Leone-Liberia region), essentially every doctor in the world would need to treat Ebola patients in order to control the epidemic. This is not possible, so at this point the epidemic is beyond the capability of world resources to handle. As the effort to contain is abandoned, resources will be reallocated towards finding, mass producing and distributing a vaccine for as-of-yet uninfected regions.
May 1, 2015: 10,000,000 Cases
With around 50% of the West African region infected, society will break down and the remaining people, nearly all of whom will have been already exposed, will become mobile and start seeking food and resources outside of the region. The number of refugees will exceed the ability of the surrounding countries to absorb them by many orders of magnitude. Expect to see stowaways, commandeered ships, trucks, trains and any means of escape being used by survivors and the still able-bodied.
June 30, 2015: Hold On to Your Butts
This is the "knee of the curve" in terms of global population. Until this time, the proportion of infected to uninfected globally has been a negligble number, but on this date, cases reach 75 million, which is over 1% of the world population. Expect a global travel ban on passengers from Africa and likely Asia at this point, since basically any plane, going anywhere, is statistically likely to be carrying an infected person. Expect draconian measures, extreme curtailment of travel and civil rights. Emergency immunization efforts are likely to have begun by this point in developed countries. Fraudulent immunization efforts will run in parallel and it will be of great concern and controversy as to who has the real vaccine, and whether or not it is effective.
September 17, 2015: 1 Billion Cases
If the epidemic continues to follow its present path, 1 in 7 people globally will be infected, at which point there will probably be regional power outages as people refuse to go to work, food shortages as truckers refuse to drive, military commandeering of basic resources and medieval living conditions in first world countries.
November 16, 2015: The Pandemic Burn Out
Everyone who is going to get Ebola will likely have gotten Ebola by this time. There will be roughly a billion people surviving worldwide, concentrated in primitive areas. This is because subsistence farmers and hunter-gatherers will have continued in their work throughout the epidemic as they were able and there will be less disruption in their food supply. In developed countries, on the other hand, most people's work does not provide them with food. This will likely lead to violence and desperation as people stop going to work and supply chains are broken.
New Year's Eve, 2015: The Aftermath
The epidemic will continue to sizzle in some areas, and crop up in others for some time, but the vast majority of the surviving human population will be either dead or immune. Hundreds of millions of tons of human biomass will feed vermin, insects, and their predators during the fall of 2015, leading to peculiar conditions that are difficult for people today to imagine. As billions of rats multiply in cities, tens of millions of dogs and cats will hunt them. Wild species will eventually join the fray. During these few months, unbelievable numbers of animals will inhabit formerly urban areas.
Over the winter of 2015-2016, people will migrate to warmer climates, and some basic things like electricity and crude fossil fuels may be restored on a limited basis. World militaries will fall apart for lack of supplies.
Past this point, the world will be mostly unrecognizable to people living today. Problems of the past regarding scarcity of space and natural resources will be basically irrelevant. Human capital will be very valuable, and restoring the modern world will be a difficult but solvable puzzle. Reallocating the surplus of goods, resources and real estate will be a point of contention for years to come.