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Newsroom Talk

Struggling with Ebola, Losing with Malaria

Maira Alejandra

In 2014, Ebola caught the world by surprise.

The largest outbreak of the deadly virus has been a reality check for the whole world. As developing countries struggled to contain the virus, developed nations realized they weren't ready to face the beast either.

The numbers alone tell a scary tale. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 20,000 people battled the Ebola virus in 2014 and 8,000 died. Sierra Leone is still struggling with a high transmission rate, followed by Liberia and Guinea.

But while most of us furiously focused all our attention and coverage efforts on Ebola, it turns out we neglected another disease that's claiming even more lives in the region: malaria.

Unlike Ebola, which still has health officials working around the clock to contain it and find a cure for it, malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that's seldom talked about.

Even worse, the campaign against Ebola is hampering efforts to fight malaria.

Both killers contain many of the same symptoms including fever, dizziness, head and muscle aches.  However malaria is caused by bites from infected mosquitos while Ebola is contracted only from the body fluids of infected victims. For this reason, many doctors decide against drawing blood to test for malaria.

The West African nation of Guinea showcases the problem. Last year, 15,000 Guineans died from malaria, compared to 1,600 Ebola deaths. Malaria is the leading cause of death there for children under five and the second leading cause of death for adults after AIDS, according to Nets for Life Africa, a New York-based charity that provides insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Health officials are especially concerned this month, a peak season for malaria.

This shift and neglect of attention makes us wonder about the nature of news sometimes. It's great to be able to keep up to date with the latest news and developments each day. But it's also dangerous to have such a short attention span, that we lose sight of solutions, as we lose hope with new problems.

Here at Newsroom Talk we wonder if malaria will take the spotlight it unfortunately deserves in 2015.