Ebola and malaria: some facts

Many friends and colleagues have told me they’re relieved that I’m back from Africa. The Ebola outbreak kept them worried about me – even though I was in safe areas. While in Nigeria, my friends there were alarmed when one night I got several mosquito bites – even though I was taking malaria pills. I do appreciate my friends’ concerns: Thank “y’all”! I thought it would be interesting to unearth some facts about these diseases.

In recent months, we have seen a growing concern about the consequences of the Ebola epidemic. Out of roughly 4,300 people infected, nearly 2,300 have died in 2014. It’s great to see the mobilization of resources that’s taking place to combat this devastating disease: efforts to treat those infected, to accelerate vaccine testing, and so on.

However, there are more prevalent diseases in Africa. This is the case of malaria, as we all know. Some facts reported by the World Health Organization (WHO):

Mosqioto nets: a traditional malaria-prevention mechanism
Mosquito nets: a traditional malaria-prevention mechanism
  • half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths every year;
  • in 2012, 90% of malaria deaths occurred in Africa;
  • about 460,000 African children die of malaria before the age of five;
  • some good news: malaria deaths have fallen by 42% since 2000.

… and there’s no malaria vaccine! Isn’t it amazing? The Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) attributes it to:

  • the absence of a traditional market,
  • few developers, and
  • the technical complexity of developing any vaccine against a parasite.

I wonder if we in the Western world would have reacted to Ebola the way we have if we hadn’t seen it as a threat to us, the “traditional market”… What do you think?

My sympathies go to all affected by either disease.

12 thoughts on “Ebola and malaria: some facts

  1. Africa, I do agree with you. It is sad to see how the firs world neglects illnesses that do no threaten its security. AIDS began to have research and investment when it came to Europe and North America.

    Ebola is terrible and doctors, nurses and misionairs taking care of sick people are real heroes, working in such dreadful conditions. This horrible situation should remember us all other needs that need investment and help.

    Thanks for bringing this for our reflexion.

    1. Hi Patricia: the bright side of a dreaful situation like this one is that it allows us to bring up the best of ourselves. Some peeple take the opportunity, others let it pass by…

  2. Unfortunately, the West would not have reacted to Ebola effectively if it was not a threat indeed, but even worse, it wouldn’t react either if it weren’t for the dramatic nature of the death the virus causes.

    1. Good to hear from you, Birgül! Actually, despite the reaction, there are critical voices that it’s not enough… I can’t remember now where those voices come from but it would be interesting to know.
      My concern is not that we react to Ebola but that we don’t react to malaria or to so many other things that don’t affect to us directly, as Patricia was saying.
      See you in Madrid in a few weeks at the Strategic Management Society (SMS) conference!

  3. Hi Africa, below you can find what I wrote in July about that desease. Sincé then many more deaths and one country else added to the list of countries affected. Fair of population and a lack of control and communication by the local governments and health system have not impeded this sanitary disaster and so many deaths.

    Health ministers and officials from 11 West African countries were last July, 2 in the Ghanaian capital Accra for a two-day meeting on the Ebola epidemic which has provoked since March 2014, more than 600 cases of Ebola and over 450 deaths in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
    It is the first time the virus is affecting this part of Africa, a virus that appeared in 1976 in Zaire (nowadays Republic Democratic of the Congo) and the emergency conference was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the rapid spread of the Ebola.
    This epidemic has very clear different characteristics as never happened before. One, it’s the first time such outbreak appears in West Africa. Secondly, it is the first time that three countries are involved. In thirdly it’s the first time that there are outbreaks in the main cities.
    Ebola’s origin is that movements of the bat population transport the virus and then it moves into non-human primates like chimps or gorillas and then into humans, usually through consumption of bushmeat. The bats roost in trees that are likely also used by primates for the purposes of fruit collection.
    Ebola is a form of hemorrhagic fever that proves fatal in up to 90 percent of cases. Virus starts with something that looks like the flu – headache, fever, maybe diarrhea, but then you can develop very fast bleeding that’s uncontrollable, and that’s how people die. The Ebola virus is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. Those at high risk of infection are health care workers, family members and others who come into close contact with sick and deceased patients.
    Medical humanitarian aid organization Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said last week that Ebola could spread to other countries, warning that those hardest hit could struggle to contain the disease.
    This is an epidemic of dysfunctional health systems and simple hygienic measures, like washing with soap and water, not re-using syringes, and avoiding contact with infected corpses are sufficient to stop spread of the disease. Of course not all voices see it so simple. Fear of the virus, and the lack of trust in government, in the health system, is as bad as the actual virus.
    In this very moment there are many hospitalizations of people that think they could have contracted this virus, but there are also people that precise to hospitalize and they are afraid to contract the virus in the hospital. This is creating a lot of problems to control the disease.
    International community, NOG and scientific community are sending doctors, epidemiologists, equipment, medicines, but population is demanding more communication from the Governments affected about the situation.
    After this emergency conference just finished yesterday July, 3, Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will report on their prevention and control measures, contact identification and tracking; case management; infection and prevention control; social mobilization; and situation reports.

  4. Malaria deaths are down, true, but from the outrageous high caused by Silent Spring (book) getting DDT removed. Westerners have caused millions of deaths in Africa from that foolish decision before there was a replacement. I’m not surprised when Africans get a bit suspicious of all the aid and help from American and Europe.

    1. I’m with you: we’ve abused Africans so many times… although, of course, not everybody has behaved or behaves in this same way.

    1. Hi “ebola,” I’m glad you find the information useful.
      Thank you all for contributing enriching this post!

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