The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people, but its effects have gone much further than these deaths, sadly. One of the biggest fears that health professionals in the region have isn’t the disease itself, but rather what is going ignored because of it.
The beginning of malaria season in West Africa has marked the beginning of more deaths as well. Many health clinics that would normally treat malaria have closed due to Ebola related fears, and, sadly, in some cases, the clinics are closed due to staff fatalities from trying to treat the deadly disease.
Health workers in the region are being told to stay away from clinics due to Ebola fears. An NPR report noted that in Sierra Leone, the country’s Health Ministry doesn’t want workers drawing blood to test for malaria because Ebola can be contracted via direct contact with blood. The problem with this policy, and others like it, is that many groups (including Sierra Leone’s Health Ministry) require a blood test before malaria can be treated.
As a result of the Ebola outbreak, many individuals are going untested and untreated for malaria, leading to a rise in deaths from this disease as well, especially among children.
It’s a disturbing trend. Many of the preventative measures in place to help stop the spread of Ebola have led more deaths from childbirth, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea.
Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations’ top man in the Ebola response, said, “One of the things that we do need to do is ensure that services get back up and running as quickly as possible, so people can access what they need in terms of health care, in terms of food and water and sanitation.”
Without basic, yet critical, infrastructure and preventative clinical measures, the death toll from Ebola and other diseases is sure to rise. Sadly, though, many of these deaths are likely not to be due to a higher rate of infection, but because those impacted individuals now are not getting the health care they require.
For more information on malaria, pneumonia or the other health risks that you could be exposed to while traveling to Africa contact a Passport Health travel health specialist.