Via The Independent, a report that echoes my own worries: Ebola outbreak: Deaths from malaria and other diseases could soar while Africa’s over-stretched healthcare systems fight the virus, expert warns. Excerpt:
The “collapse” of healthcare systems in West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak could lead to thousands more people dying from malaria and other diseases, a leading expert has said, with the additional death toll from malaria and other diseases likely to exceed that of the outbreak itself.
Dr Jimmy Whitworth, the head of population health at the UK-based health foundation the Wellcome Trust, told The Independent that he was “increasingly pessimistic” about the capacity of health services in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to cope with the outbreak, and said he feared the breakdown of routine hospital and clinic services could lead to thousands of excess deaths from diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
West Africa, where more than 1,000 people have died of Ebola since February, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is currently in the middle of its rainy season and approaching the peak time for malaria transmission.
However, many clinics and hospitals in all three of the countries worst hit by Ebola have effectively been shut down by the virus. Meanwhile, widespread fear of contracting Ebola from hospital patients will stop people coming forward for treatment for other diseases, Dr Whitworth said.
“These health systems are pretty tenuous at the best of times,” he said. “With Ebola, the whole general health system is collapsing. People aren’t going to hospitals or clinics because they’re frightened, there aren’t any medical staff or nursing staff available. Some hospitals have been entirely taken over by Ebola patients, which means other people not getting a look-in.
“I suspect there will be lots of excess malaria deaths occurring because of this, and they will simply go undocumented and unremarked because patients aren’t getting into health systems. I’d expect there would be far more [excess] people dying from malaria than from Ebola.”
Up to 100,000 can die from malaria in the region in an average year, Dr Whitworth said.