(Reuters) –By Sharon Begley and Tom Miles NEW YORK/GENEVA. Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:02pm EDT

Global experts issued stark new warnings of the scale of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak on Tuesday, with the U.S. government estimating between 550,000 and 1.4 million people might be infected in the region by January. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its projection was based on data from late August and did not take into account a planned U.S. mission to fight the disease, so the upper end of the forecast was unlikely. … The worst-case scenario assumes that there are 2.5 times the number of recorded cases, currently at 5,864. “A surge now can break the back of the epidemic,” Frieden said. “If you get enough people effectively isolated, the epidemic can be stopped.” …

Experts from the WHO and Imperial College were less optimistic. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, they warned that infections could reach 20,000 by November if strict controls were not put in place.

“With exponential growth, you’ll see that the case numbers per week go up, so that by the second of November, over these three countries our best estimate is over 20,000 cases, confirmed and suspected cases,” said Dr. Christopher Dye, WHO director of strategy and co-author of the article. …

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