Impact of infectious disease epidemics on tuberculosis diagnostic, management, and prevention services: experiences and lessons from the 2014-2015 Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa

Int J Infect Dis. 2017 Mar;56:101-104. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.10.010. Epub 2016 Nov 3.


The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Report 2015 states that 28% of the world's 9.6 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases are in the WHO Africa Region. The Mano River Union (MRU) countries of West Africa-Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia-have made incremental sustained investments into TB control programmes over the past two decades. The devastating Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak of 2014-2015 in West Africa impacted significantly on all sectors of the healthcare systems in the MRU countries, including the TB prevention and control programmes. The EVD outbreak also had an adverse impact on the healthcare workforce and healthcare service delivery. At the height of the EVD outbreak, numerous staff members in all MRU countries contracted EBV at the Ebola treatment units and died. Many healthcare workers were also infected in healthcare facilities that were not Ebola treatment units but were national hospitals and peripheral health units that were unprepared for receiving patients with EVD. In all three MRU countries, the disruption to TB services due to the EVD epidemic will no doubt have increased Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmission, TB morbidity and mortality, and decreased patient adherence to TB treatment, and the likely impact will not be known for several years to come. In this viewpoint, the impact that the EVD outbreak had on TB diagnostic, management, and prevention services is described. Vaccination against TB with BCG in children under 5 years of age was affected adversely by the EVD epidemic. The EVD outbreak was a result of global failure and represents yet another 'wake-up call' to the international community, and particularly to African governments, to reach a consensus on new ways of thinking at the national, regional, and global levels for building healthcare systems that can sustain their function during outbreaks. This is necessary so that other disease control programmes (like those for TB, malaria, and HIV) are not compromised during the emergency measures of a severe epidemic.

Keywords: Ebola; Epidemics; Health services; Impact; Outbreak; Tuberculosis.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Personnel
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / diagnosis
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / therapy
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Tuberculosis* / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis* / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis* / prevention & control
  • Tuberculosis* / therapy
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Workforce
  • World Health Organization


  • Tuberculosis Vaccines