End malaria for good: Here are the key things to know

By Beingana Geofrey

Today is World Malaria Day. The theme for this year is: End malaria for good. In this article, I present to you the key things to know about this epidemic.

What is Malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes named Anopheles. Once an infected mosquito bites a human and transmits the parasites, those parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.

Facts about Malaria
Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths. Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 29% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths.

In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death; more than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. Between 2010 and 2015, the under-5 malaria death rate fell by 29% globally. However malaria remains a major killer of children under five years old, taking the life of a child every two minutes.

Malaria is an acute febrile (showing symptoms of fever) illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms appear 7 days or more (usually 10–15 days) after the infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache, chills and vomiting – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum (one of the species of the parasite that cause malaria in humans) malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis (occurs when the body produces excessive quantities of acid), or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ involvement is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.

Who is at risk?
Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers.

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. If coverage of vector control interventions within a specific area is high enough, then a measure of protection will be conferred across the community. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control through the following ways:

Indoor residual spraying (Photo: RTI/ B Stewart).
  • Sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets
  • Indoor spraying with residual insecticides
  • Antimalarial drugs

In pregnancy, WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (commonly known as Fansidar), at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations. In 2012, WHO recommended Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention as an additional malaria prevention strategy for areas of the Sahel sub-Region of Africa.

  • Clearing bushes and any other possible breeding places like stagnant water is also recommendable.

Diagnosis and treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission.

If we all contribute to eradicating Malaria we shall achieve it. Have you played your role? Well this was mine.

Mr. Beingana is the Regional Projects Officer at IPSF African Regional Office.
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