Top 10 deadly diseases in Africa

Africa is famous for many deadly diseases that originated and got widely spread on this continent. Learn about the top 10 of them and how to avoid them.

Africa is famous for a range of troubles, such as the deadliest diseases in the world. Let's take a look at some of them, their transmission and prevention methods, etc. 

Top 10 deadly diseases in Africa: 

10 deadly diseases in Africa

1. Ebola

We will start with this disease, because lately it has grown to be  one of the chief bogeyman for the entire world. It is one of the outbreaks and latest diseases in Africa. Ebola has been on all the news channels and in the heads and hearts of masses of people.

Disease ecology

It is one of those diseases originating from the beast world. There have been many disputes as to what animal type was the cause of Ebola. Presently, scientists incline to the version that Ebola was caught by humans from the bats. Formerly they believed the origin of the infection was the monkeys.

The epizootic cycle or the virus (its rotation and spread in the animal world) appears to be starting with the bats, which infect apes and other mammals, such as deer, etc. Then the mammals pass on the virus to humans. However, the exact process of getting this disease passed on from beasts to humans unknown.

In many cases large outbreaks of Ebola as one of the animal diseases amongst bats and other beasts precede human epidemics.
deadly diseases in Africa

Etiological factor and name

The name of this virus derives from the river name in Africa – Ebola river of Zaire. That is where it has been found originally. Presently, scientists discern 5 types of the virus. At this one of them is not contagious for humans (it’s the Reston virus). The other four are: Zaire virus, Tai Forest virus, Sudan and Bundibgyo virus.

Ebola is a type of hemorrhagic illness. As all viruses Ebola is not an organism, but rather is a tiny string of RNA (ribonucleic acid) that builds up into the human body cells and infects them. It mostly gets installed into the body proteins.

Transmission and prevention

Main transmission method is through body liquids. The only prevention is to shun interaction with the virus carrier and to wear rubber gloves and medical overalls when handling body wastes or infected people. 

Symptoms and treatment

The signs of Ebola on its initial stage greatly resemble those of malaria. That is why in some cases it was not timely diagnosed and patients with Ebola were released from the hospital. That is exactly what happened during the latest outbreak in Africa, when a individual with Ebola arrived to Nigeria on the plane. Here are some of its symptoms:

  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Joint pain and weakness
  • Stomach pain, etc.


 The freshest epidemic occured in 2014 in Western Africa. Overall there have been 6 major outbreaks. The death rate for Ebola is 70 percent. With thousands getting infected the number of death can quickly mount up.


Disease ecology

HIV is the only “disease newcomer” in our world. The rest of them resided with us for hundreds of years or mutated from other ailments. It is widely accepted that HIV started in Africa from SIV ape disease. The virus got passed on to humans and mutated in their bodies.
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Etiological factor and name

The names HIV and AIDS are the abbreviations:  Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.


The outbreak of this disease has not stopped even since its beginning. Presently, up to 5 percent of the African population carries this virus. The numbers for Europe, America and other countries are much smaller. The reason for such a state of things is not just low level of education or poor healthcare.

The outbreak of HIV in Africa started unnoticed and went on for years. Millions of people got infected without even knowing it. That is why HIV is one of the most frequently found infections in Africa and it keeps on spreading.

Transmission and prevention

The virus is passed on from person to person through sexual interaction or through blood. Thus, prevention greatly depends on sexual purity, sexual education and high level of sterility in medical institutions.

3. Malaria

Disease ecology

Another one of top 10 deadly diseases in Africa is malaria. It is an infectious disease caused by one cell parasites rather than a virus. The pathogens are transmitted from person to person through mosquitoes. The type of mosquitoes is called Anopheles. Their presence and speed of breeding greatly determines the severity of malaria outbreaks.

Some of its symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • high fever, etc.
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Etiological factor and name

The name “malaria” means “foul air” or “miasma”. It comes from Italian. People used to believe the illness is caused by bad air. The parasites called Plasmodium get into one’s blood and breed there in the red cells. They destroy the cells and that is what causes the yellow skin shade.


There have been over 15 major outbreaks of malaria since the 70ss of the last century. Overall this disease has caused more than half a million deaths caused with over 200 million cases of malaria in the world. Vaccination persists to be one of the top prevention measures for malaria. Plus, one should do all possible to prevent mosquito bites.

4. Common cold and pneumonia

It is amazing that one of the top 10 most deadly diseases in Africa is a simple pneumonia or bronchitis. In developed countries the death rate of such infectious diseases is pretty low, but not in Africa.
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Etiological factor and name

These diseases and infections get easily caught from person to person. All the regions of the world regularly have epidemics of ARDs. Pneumococcus is the main cause of pneumonia. This bacterium is one of daily “comrades” of human beings. There are over 80 types of them. Most adults and kids carry some type in their body without getting infected with it. It just lives in the nasopharynx. It gets dangerous, when bacteria migrate down into the lungs.

Usually people with strong immune system keep the number of pneumococcus under control. However, hard work, poor hygiene and denutrition undermine the immune system and such bacteria can become a lethal danger.


As you may see, most African countries have perfect conditions for lethal cases of pneumonia and other lower respiratory tract infections. Outbreaks are inevitable. Yearly up to 1 million lives or kids and adults are taken by this disease in Africa.

Treatment of pneumonia is comparably inexpensive. 10 dollar worth antibiotics can save someone’s life. However, it requires early diagnosis, which is highly problematic in Africa. There are not enough qualified doctors who can diagnose it. And, there is the lack of medicine to treat it timely. Here you can get a list of drugs used for the medication for this disease: http://www.webmd.com/lung/antibiotics-for-pneumonia.

Transmission and prevention

This infection is airborne. It’s in the air and on the things used by other people, such as crockery, linens, etc. So, prevention means avoiding contact with the sick person and high level of hygiene.

5. Rabies

Disease ecology

All the mammals can become victims of this disease. The virus damages brain and leads to hydrophobia, dehydration and death. It is one of the deadly diseases in Africa. Mostly animals are the carriers of this virus. An infected animal may become aggressive. It bites other mamals or humans and transmits the disease. Presently, rabies is mostly carried by wild animals. However, this is true in the states, where domestic animals get vaccinated for it.
deadly diseases in Africa 5

Etiological factor and name


According to WHO 95 percent of all the deaths caused by rabies happen in Africa and Asia. Again poverty in Africa is one of the roots of such a situation. There is no remedy for rabies. The only hope for the one infected with it is to get vaccination timely within the first few hours after being bitten by a sick animal.

Recently South Africa had one of the largest rabies outbreaks among other countries. The carries of the disease are stray dogs.

Transmission and prevention

Rabies is transmitted through contact with saliva or through a bite of an plague-ridden animal (or person). The main prevention deals with stray animals. They can be either vaccinated for rabies or put to death.

6. Meningitis
deadly diseases in Africa 6

Etiological factor and name

This is another one of the communicable diseases. It can be caused either by bacteria or by a virus. This infection afflicts spinal cord and brain. The name derives from “meninges” or the soft tissues of the brain that get damaged by the disease.


It has a range of very pronounced symptoms. Knowing them can help you save someone’s life:

  • Fever
  • Light sensitivity
  • Dementia (quick reduction of brain function)
  • Vomiting
  • Purple bruises, especially on the legs (once you press them with your finger, they do not change color or appearance)
  • Bad headache, etc.


It’s one of the sicknesses in Nigeria that has caused a recent minor outbreak, especially its Zamfara province. Almost 700 cases were diagnosed and 50 people died during this 2015 outbreak. Since the end of 80ss there have been almost a million cases of this disease in Africa. The death rate is comparably small (just 1 percent). However, many meningitis survivors remain deaf, blind or demented for the rest of their lives.

Transmission and prevention

Meningitis get transmitted though water and direct contact. One can get it by eating unclean fruit of veggies or by not washing their hands. Proper hygiene is one of the prevention methods for this disease. The risks of getting in include such factors as age and concomitant diseases. All the ear or nose disease cases should be treated timely to prevent getting the brain inflammation.

7. Syphilis
diseases in Africa 7

Etiological factor and name

This is one of the highly communicable diseases that can be passed from person to person. The name “syphilis” is another Italian word used to name diseases. Some believe that syphilis was carried back by Columbus men from the New World, while others find proof that Europe had its outbreaks way before the Columbus tour to Americas.


Africa got infected with syphilis around 200 years ago. In the beginning of the last century in Uganda syphilis has become massive and increased the infant mortality rate to 60 percent. It also got massive in Nigeria. The physicians believes that over 90 percent of all the babies born in Nigeria have inborn syphilis! So, the outbreak is still there.

Presently over 12 million people get infected with syphilis annually and over 150 thousand people die of it yearly. 

Transmission and prevention

Mostly syphilis is transmitted through sex. It can also be passed on from mother to her children while in her womb. The main prevention measure is sex education and sexual purity. After all marital loyalty pays back the most. Having just one sexual partner in life is the best prevention you can have.

8. Tuberculosis
deadly diseases in Africa 8

Etiological factor and name

This disease has been with us for a long while. On the verge of the 20th century doctors believed they could get it done with it. However, tubercle bacillus is still around. What is more this bacteria becomes resistant to treatment.


According to WHO over 90 percent of all the TB deaths occur in developing and poor countries. Treatment for this disease could be expensive. Moreover, low level of personal hygiene and sanitation can provoke its outbreaks. Annually over 9 million people get diagnosed with TB and almost 1.5 million die of it.

Africa alone yearly gets over 2.5 people infected with TB with 360 thousands of deaths. Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria are listed among the top countries with high level of outbreaks in all of their regions. Nigeria in particular gets over half a million cases of TB per year.

Transmission and prevention

TB cam be transmitted through personal contact and by air. Once an infected person coughs, sneezes or even sings, hundreds of bacterium fly out of their lips.  One of the most frequently used prevention methods for TB is vaccination. However, some doctors oppose it as being ineffective. Poor life conditions and denutrition greatly contribute to the TB spreading along with low level of medical care. 

9. Dengue

Disease ecology

This disease the same as malaria is carrier around by mosquitoes. Their type is called Aedes. Even though this type of viral diseases is in the blood, people cannot pass it on directly to one another. Instead it is transmitted by the insects.
deadly diseases in Africa 9

Etiological factor and name

Dengue is a virus. Its main symptoms are:

  • Joint and muscle pain  (severe one)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Stiff movements


Over the last 50 years Dengue outbreaks have affected 22 different African countries. Around the world the outbreaks of it include 100 million cases.

Transmission and prevention

Since the disease is being transmitted by mosquitoes, the control of their population is one of the key prevention actions.

10. Sleeping Sickness (Trypanosomiasis)
deadly diseases in Africa 10

Disease ecology

Sleeping sickness is one of top 10 deadly diseases of Africa and can infect both animals and human. There is no other place in the world, but Africa, where you can find this disease. The main transmitter of the disease is tsetse fly. This infection highly impacts Nigerians, because it kills lots of cattle. Presently, Nigeria has managed to reduce the health consequences of disease for humans, but the death cattle leads to lack of food and of protein rich food in particular.


There have been many severe epidemics of this disease in Africa. For instance in Uganda in the early 1900s it carried away the lives of 250 thousand people. For a long while Trypanosomiasis was not known in Europe and other countries of the world. There was no treatment for it until 1910. The best drug to treat it was made only in 2001.


The parasites that cause sleeping sickness can be hosted both by humans and my animals. So, the prevention should be aimed on finding infected people and treating them for the parasites. They also try to control and significantly reduce the population of tsetse fly.

All the top 10 deadly diseases of Africa have been a great concern to health care systems of many African countries, including Nigeria. Knowing their symptoms, ecology and transmission methods can help save lives of many people.

READ ALSO: Causes of poverty in Nigeria.


I became Hepatitis B-positive in 2013, But like most of the over 40 million positive Men/Women worldwide, I was infected by my long-term regular partner. The challenge for every positive person is to take back control of their lives, in "Living Positively" with the virus. I’d always believed that good health was never maintained only by taking medication. More than ever, Hepatitis reinforced for me that health is not just physical health, but also mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. An important part of the healing process for me is to be active in Hepatitis education, support and advocacy. I volunteer in a number of Hepatitis B organizations, and in particular Positive Men/Women, because the impact of Hepatitis B on women is very different than from men. As once a Hepatitis positive person, I will forever be grateful to God Almighty to reach me when i thought it is all over, Today am happy with my family living free after the medical doctor have confirmed my Hepatitis B status Negative, I have never in my life believed that Hepatitis B could be cured by any herbal medicine, I want to make sure that Hepatitis B never happens to anyone else. We can’t prevent Hepatitis by punishment, by stigma and discrimination. It’s only through building a safe, supportive and caring environment and that positive people still have hope. With the help of Dr. Ariba herbs you can get cured from HIV, Hepatitis B, Cancer and many other other deadly diseases. Reach him on draribaspelltemple@gmail.com OR draribasolutioncenter@yahoo.com

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Answered 11 months ago.

Yes, unfortunately, most of the diseases that are amenable to treatment or is very hard also not curable concentrated in Africa. The Ebola virus is not casual in the first place. Around him a lot of panic, because primarily affects children, besides being not yet born. I heard that in case of defeat this virus was also detected in Russia, and it is very scary. I hope that doctors will find a way, how you can be cured. The rest of the disease with this tens of no less dangerous, and would like to see this list becomes smaller by 1 point every year.

Answered 1 year ago.
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