A look at the worst-ever Ebola epidemic by numbers

Medical workers wearing protective equipment surround a simulated patient during a demonstration for media members on their training for working with possible Ebola patients, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis McChord, near Tacoma, Wash. Madigan providers and nurses have been training to perform clinical skills, including inserting IVs, obtaining blood samples for testing and conducting ultrasounds while dressed in powered air purifying respirators, impermeable suits and multiple layers of gloves. The clinically-focused exercises use realistic patient simulators that speak through microphones and can express simulated bodily fluids.       (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

LONDON (AP) — As the biggest-ever outbreak of Ebola continues to ravage West Africa, here are a few key numbers to get a handle on the epidemic:

13,042 and 4,818:

According to an update this week from the World Health Organization, there have been 13,042 Ebola cases and 4,818 deaths since the first child died of the virus in December — but those figures include all probable, suspected and confirmed cases and are subject to change as more information becomes available. The numbers have actually dropped slightly in the past week because numbers fluctuate as more data becomes available, and as probable and suspected cases are either discarded or confirmed.

Experts warn the number of cases and deaths are likely far below the actual numbers, as people may be reluctant to seek care and officials are too overwhelmed with control efforts to record every single case. The vast majority of patients are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Cases and deaths are typically only recorded days after people become symptomatic or die, which complicates a real-time understanding of Ebola.

“We are definitely getting a delayed picture of the outbreak,” said Sebastian Funk, a lecturer in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “It’s difficult to tell if we are reaching a turning point or if there will be a doomsday scenario. I could see it going either way at the moment.”

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