The Ebola outbreak sweeping through West Africa could last more than a year and infect hundreds of thousands before it is held in check, according to a collaboration of research and informatics groups that develop computational models to understand how infectious disease agents spread through society.

“We hope we’re wrong,” computational epidemiologist Bryan Lewis told The New York Times.

Lewis, a researcher with the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, has more than 10 years of experience in crafting, analyzing, and interpreting the results of models in the context of real public health problems.

While the World Health Organization predicted about 20,000 total cases in nine months, the group of scientists collaborating on Ebola modeling said that number could be reached in a month.
The researchers are part of a National Institutes of Health-sponsored project called Midas, short for Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study.

The ray of hope? Because of the modeling, public health workers have some forewarning and can take preventive measures to slow the spread of the deadly disease.