The hidden cost of Ebola
The humanitarian crisis caused by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa may be substantially larger than reported, if the effect of the epidemic on malaria is taken into account. A new report in The Lancet suggests that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa may have indirectly caused more deaths from malaria than Ebola itself, as a direct consequence of decreased health-care capacity in the countries seriously affected. (Read the report here.)
The report estimates that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone suffered an extra 10,900 malaria-attributable deaths and 3.5 million additional untreated cases of malaria as a consequence of the Ebola epidemic. There were 10,220 deaths from Ebola virus deisease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014*
The increase in malaria deaths and cases stems from the breakdown of health systems in the countries affected, which meant that the normal systems for malaria prevention and treatment were seriously disrupted. The report says that 'the overall indirect effect of Ebola virus disease on malaria will probably be equal or greater than the direct effect of the virus itself'.
The researchers who produced the report, 'Malaria morbidity and mortality in Ebola-affected countries caused by decreased health-care capacity, and the potential effect of mitigation strategies: a modelling analysis,' estimated the number of cases and deaths from malaria by taking the data of malaria interventions before the Ebola outbreak and removing the effect of hospital care and treatment. The estimate didn't include increases in deaths and sickness arising from disruption to the distribution of insecticide treated bednets, or the substantial effect on malaria morbidity in pregnant women and babies.
The report suggests that mass drug administration and distribution of insecticide treated bednets could play a large part in mitigating future effects of Ebola on malaria.
Jed is responsible for how IVCC communicates with and is perceived by the world, as well as advocacy for vector control.