West Africa's fight to contain Ebola has hampered the campaign against malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that is claiming many thousands more lives than the dreaded virus.
In Guinea, half the 12 million people have no access to health centers and die uncounted. Some 15,000 Guineans died from malaria last year, 14,000 of them children under five, according to Nets for Life Africa, a New York-based charity dedicated to providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets to put over beds. In comparison, about 1,600 people in Guinea have died from Ebola, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
Malaria is the leading cause of death in children under five in Guinea and, after AIDS, the leading cause of adult deaths, according to Nets for Life.
Ebola and malaria have many of the same symptoms, including fever, dizziness, head and muscle aches. Malaria is caused by bites from infected mosquitoes while Ebola can be contracted only from the body fluids of an infected victim — hence doctors' fears of drawing blood to do malaria tests.
People suffering malaria fear being quarantined in Ebola treatment centers and health centers not equipped to treat Ebola are turning away patients with Ebola-like symptoms, doctors said.
In Sierra Leone, the third country hard-hit by Ebola, Doctors Without Borders took unprecedented, pre-emptive action this month, distributing 1.5 million antimalarial drugs that can be used to both prevent and treat, aiming to protect people during the disease's peak season.