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Ebola: models do more than forecast

Your assertion that models of the Ebola epidemic have failed to project its course misrepresents their aims (see Nature 515, 18; 2014). They helped to inspire and inform the strong international response that may at last be slowing the epidemic (see M. F. C. Gomes et al. PLoS Curr. Outbreaks http://doi.org/vvd; 2014).

Subsequent models assessed the likely impact of different public-health interventions and policy decisions (J. A. Lewnard et al. Lancet Infect. Dis. 14, 1189–1195 (2014) and A. Pandey et al. Science http://doi.org/wts; 2014). As those interventions were implemented and as people's behaviour changed, case counts below the modelled baseline were early indicators that the response to the outbreak was having an effect.

Epidemics are affected by countless variables, so uncertainty is a given. Models synthesize available information. Without them, there is little to guide decision-makers during an outbreak. Their importance goes beyond providing forecasts.

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Correspondence to Caitlin Rivers.

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Rivers, C. Ebola: models do more than forecast. Nature 515, 492 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/515492a

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