Through modelling analysis, a team from Arizona State University (ASU) and Harvard University discovered that the rate of rise in cases significantly increased in August in Liberia and Guinea around the time that a mass quarantine was put in place.
It indicates that the mass quarantine efforts may have made the outbreak worse than it would have been otherwise.
"Deteriorating living and hygiene conditions in some of the quarantined areas sparked riots last month. Sierra Leone began a three day country-wide quarantine today, where all citizens have been asked to stay at home," said Sherry Towers, a research professor from ASU.
Mass quarantine efforts may have made the outbreak worse
Researchers examined the current outbreak data for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia through statistical research methods up until Sept 8 as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
There may be other reasons for the worsening of the outbreak spread, including the possibility that the virus has become more transmissible.
"But it is also possible that the quarantine control efforts actually made the outbreak spread more quickly by crowding people together in unsanitary conditions," Towers pointed out.
According to researchers, no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for the disease is currently available.
"This leaves improved hygiene, quarantine, isolation and social distancing as the only potential interventions," added Carlos Castillo-Chavez from ASU.
The paper was published in the online journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.