Bill Gates: Coronavirus crisis continues — but don’t forget malaria

Wiping out preventable diseases like malaria will help doctors and patients alike cope better with new ones, such as COVID-19, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said.

“Ridding the world of preventable, treatable diseases like malaria will save millions of lives and lead to healthier, more prosperous communities,” Gates tweeted Tuesday. “And that will make them better prepared to confront any new health challenges like COVID-19 in the future.”

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Gates’ most recent comments echo that of health officials who have recently urged Americans to get a vaccine for influenza in order to limit the risk of hospitals being overloaded with multiple epidemics.

While Gates, who has been critical about the country’s response to the pandemic, has invested a hefty sum in medicine development and vaccines tied to treating COVID-19, he stressed that other diseases should not be overlooked, especially as they continue to threaten thousands of lives every day.

In fact, mosquitoes – which Gates dubbed the world’s deadliest animal – continue to infect millions of people with malaria, which results in the death of a child every other minute of every day, Gates said in a recent blog post.

“There is not a choice between saving lives from COVID-19 versus saving lives from malaria” and other diseases, he said, adding that instead, the world must enable countries to do both.

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During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS contributed to many more deaths than the Ebola outbreak “because the epidemic disrupted local health care systems,” he said, adding that health officials now fear the same could happen with the current pandemic.

To bolster his point, Gates cited a modeling analysis from the World Health Organization saying that if prevention and treatment services are severely disrupted by COVID-19, malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, would surpass mortality levels last seen in 2000, when an estimated 764,000 people died from malaria in Africa, most of which were children.

“Health officials urgently need to step up to the challenge of controlling the pandemic while also making sure that malaria, as well as other diseases like HIV and tuberculosis, are not neglected,” he said.

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