The Ebola outbreak in Guinea may have led to 74,000 new cases of malaria going untreated, causing a spike in malaria deaths likely to be much higher than the Ebola toll, researchers said on Wednesday.
During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, visits to health centers in Guinea fell by 42 percent in the worst affected areas, as many people held back from seeking medical help from fear of contracting the disease, said a report published in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
“One problem is that the early symptoms of malaria (fever, headache, and body aches) mimic those of Ebola virus disease,” Mateusz Plucinski of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the research, said in a statement.
“Malaria is one of the main causes of fever and health facilities visits in Guinea, but our data suggest that since the start of the Ebola epidemic people with fevers have avoided clinics for fear of contracting Ebola or being sent to an Ebola treatment center, ” said Plucinski.
The researchers surveyed 120 public health facilities in Guinea in December 2014, both in areas affected by the virus and those that were Ebola-free.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola has killed 2,444 people in Guinea, of a total of 11,169 in the three worst hit West African countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.