Health workers have launched a door-to-door, four-day blitz in a bid to control malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the aim of reducing the suspected Ebola cases to half.
“It will make things a lot easier if malaria is taken out of the equation,” Stefan Hoyer of the World Health Organization said by phone from Beni, epicentre of the Ebola outbreak.
The town of Beni in North Kivu province, is currently battling the worst Ebola outbreak in Congo’s history and it has also seen an eight-fold increase in malaria cases since last year.
Children who went to health centres for malaria are believed to have contracted Ebola there, and about half of the people screened in Ebola centres only had malaria, said the WHO.
If malaria cases are reduced, health workers will be able to focus on real Ebola patients and keep others away from the wards.
About 240 people have died as a result of ebola and more than 400 people infected since July in an outbreak that shows little sign of abating.
It is spread through contact with bodily fluids and symptoms include vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.
The world’s worst outbreak, from 2014 to 2016 killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Congo is the second worst country in the world for malaria, followed by Nigeria, and Hoyer said there were no more mosquito-blocking bed nets left in North Kivu, an eastern province that is battling both conflict and disease.
Malaria can normally be diagnosed with a rapid blood test, but the risk of Ebola transmission means health workers have to rely on an assessment of symptoms, he said.
Starting on Wednesday, health workers planned to go door-to-door for four days in the town of Beni, delivering mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs to 450,000 people, said the WHO.