The health impact of the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak

Public Health. 2017 Feb:143:60-70. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2016.10.020. Epub 2016 Nov 29.


Objectives: The 2014-15 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak recorded; however, there remains uncertainty over its wider health consequences. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of the Ebola outbreak on population health in the three most affected countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Study design: Narrative review.

Methods: A narrative overview of the peer-reviewed and grey literature related to the impact and consequences of the Ebola outbreak was conducted, synthesizing the findings of literature retrieved from a structured search of biomedical databases, the Web and references of reviewed articles.

Results: The impact of the Ebola outbreak was profound and multifaceted. The health system was severely compromised due to overwhelming demand, healthcare workers deaths, resource diversion and closure of health facilities. Fear of Ebola and healthcare workers led to a breakdown in trust in health systems. Access to healthcare was compromised. Substantial reductions in healthcare utilization were reported including over 80% reductions in maternal delivery care in Ebola-affected areas, 40% national reductions in malaria admissions among children <5 years and substantial reductions in vaccination coverage. Socio-economic impacts included reduced community cohesion, education loss, reduced child protection, widespread job losses and food insecurity. Increased morbidity and mortality and reduced expected life expectancy were reported.

Conclusions: This review highlights the scope and scale of the consequences of the Ebola outbreak on population health. Sustained commitment of the international community is required to support health system re-building and to urgently address unmet population health needs.

Keywords: Consequences; Ebola; Impact; Population health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Health*
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Trust