Malaria is a common, life-threatening disease caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium, which is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. It is an endemic disease found in the tropics. In Nigeria, over 445 000 people were killed in 2016 by malaria, most of which were children under age five (5), making malaria the 3rd leading cause of mortality in Nigerian children under five after Diarrhea and Pneumonia. It accounts for more cases and deaths in Nigeria than any other country in the world.
There are 5 Plasmodium species known to cause Malaria in humans and they are:
- P. falciparum
- P. ovale
- P. malariae
- P. vivax
- P. knowlesi
Each species has varying characteristics. However, of all these species, Plasmodium falciparum is the most lethal and the commonest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Plasmodium parasite can also be transmitted via blood transfusion and mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy but those are less common routes of transmission.
The biggest risk factor is to live in or visit places where malaria is common. Places with the highest malaria risk and infection rates include:
- Sub-Saharan Africa,
- The Indian subcontinent
- South Pacific Islands (Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea)
- Haiti (in the Caribbean)
Many people who are exposed to malaria live in regions where poverty, lack of knowledge, and a shortage of healthcare services are barriers to life-saving treatment. Pregnant women, children and people living with HIV are the most susceptible groups to malaria infection.
SIGN AND SYMPTOMS
- Shaking chills
- Joint Pain
- Muscle pain
- Paroxysms of fever, shaking chills, and sweats (every 48 or 72 hours, depending on species)
Early and accurate diagnosis of malaria is essential for both rapid and effective disease management and surveillance. Diagnosis is made by history and examination as well as blood testing to identify the parasite (and the particular species). On the spot, diagnosis is made using Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits. However other methods of diagnosis are available, include microscopy, serology, blood smears etc.
The WHO recommendation for the treatment of malaria is combination therapy - combinations of antimalarial drugs known as artemisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT, to which other drugs may be added if necessary. Deciding which drug combinations to use to treat your malarial infection depends on a number of factors:
- The type of parasite you are infected with
- Where and when you got infected
- How severe your symptoms are
- If you have other illnesses or conditions, are taking other medication, and/or have drug allergies
- Whether or not you are pregnant
- Whether or not the parasites in the region where you were infected are resistant to any of the available antimalarial drugs.
As with many vector-borne diseases, control of malaria relies on a combination of case treatment, vector eradication and personal protection from mosquito bites.
- Mosquito eradication is achieved by:
- Use of insecticides,
- House spraying with DDT,
- Manipulation of habitation such as clearing of gutters, drainages and any other source of open stagnant water.
- Personal protection is achieved by using:
- Insecticide-treated bed nets,
- Use of mosquito repellent creams.
- Non-immune travellers are to malaria-endemic areas are strongly advised to take measures to avoid insects bites such as:
- Anti-Malarial Prophylaxis
- Use of Insect repellent lotions and sprays
- Use of ITNs.
Vaccines designed to confer immunity to children under five as well as non-immune travellers are currently in production and will be available in the nearest future.
Article By: Adeyemi Hameedah