From the day we could understand any word other than food and play as kids, we started becoming familiar with the word malaria or paludisme or iba (Yoruba and Igbo). We also sang songs in nursery school like “Malaria is a very bad sick! Malaria is a very bad sick…” Indeed it is a very bad sick and has been there long before our grandparents were born.
What is Malaria?
Truly malaria is a very bad sick! But what more is there to know about this very bad sick?
- Malaria is a life threatening disease caused by the plasmodium parasites transmitted when bitten by an infected female anopheles mosquito.
- Malaria is both preventable and curable. (Thank God!)
- Of the 195 countries in the world, 91 have active malaria transmission. 90% of malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa. That is if 10 people have malaria in the world, 9 would be from sub-Saharan Africa.
How do you know you have Malaria?
It usually starts with a rapid onset of fever, headache, shivering with muscles and joint pains. You should also know that fever is not a disease but natural reaction of the body to a disease. These symptoms appear after 7 days or more (usually 10-15 days) after the infective mosquito. If treatment is not started within 24 hours of being diagnosed, the situation can only get worse.
Who can have Malaria?
Everyone can have malaria. In 2015, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. That is about 3.6 billion people could have malaria. But most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Sahara Africa, from Mauritania across to Somalia and down to South Africa.
Infants, children under 5 years, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of having malaria.
Malaria being a very bad sick, is a major killer of children under 5 years, taking the life of a child every two minutes.
How is this Malaria transmitted?
In most cases, malaria is transmitted through the female Anopheles mosquito which bites during the dark, between dusk and dawn. Transmission also depends on climatic conditions. It is highest just after the rainy season.
But how can malaria be prevented?
Earlier on we mentioned that malaria is both preventable and curable, here are some ways we can prevent malaria:
- Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. The vector in this case is the female Anopheles mosquito. Vector control is best achieved through clean environments, avoiding hips of trash and standing pools or vessels of water. Furthermore vector control could be achieved
- by using insecticide treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying with residual insecticides.
- Antimalarial medicine can also be used to prevent malaria, chemo prophylaxis which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infection, preventing malaria disease.
Diagnosis and treatment of Malaria
Suspected malaria cases can be confirmed using microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests before administering treatment.
The best available treatment is Artemisine-based Combination Therapy (ACT). And just like antibiotic resistance, we also have antimalarial drug resistance which we would talk about in another post.
Call to Action
- Keeping our environments free from hips of trash, stagnant pools or vessels of water, as well as bushes.
- Sleeping under treated mosquito nets.
- Indoor residual spraying of insecticides.
- Use of preventive therapies for pregnant women and infants.
These tools are powerful and cost effective in preventing malaria. Together let’s close the gap.
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