As trivial as it might seem in Sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria, it remains a potent killer. According to one estimate, Malaria was responsible for 409,000 deaths in 2019 alone. With over 250 million cases worldwide, this disease remains a massive cause for concern.
Plasmodium parasites cause malaria. The parasites are passed to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
A significant symptom is a high fever. In people with no immunity, symptoms usually appear 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bite. It often comes with headaches, cold and even dysgeusia, or a bitter taste in your mouth. If not treated within 24 hours, it can progress to severe illness and even lead to death.
Severe illnesses result from malaria, mainly in children, include severe anemia, respiratory distress, or cerebral malaria. In adults, it can lead to multi-organ failure.
Who Is Vulnerable To Malaria?
According to a 2019 study, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of Malaria, with most cases and death occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. While certain people are developing immunity to it, others still are at greater risk.
People at a higher risk of contracting malaria and developing severe conditions include infants, children under five years of age, pregnant women, and patients with HIV/AIDS. Non-immune immigrants too, are also at a greater risk of contracting the disease.
The most effective way to control transmission through vector control. Areas with control interventions have seen a notable reduction in Malaria cases. Two recommended forms of vector control include insecticide-treated net and indoor residual spraying.
Sleeping under an insecticide-teated net can reduce transmission by acting as a barrier behind the vector and humans. This prevention method had grown from 2% in 2000 to an estimated 46% in 2019.
Indoor residual spraying is another powerful form of vector control for malaria. It involves periodically spraying houses with insecticides to prevent the growth and development of mosquitoes.
Antimalarial drugs can also be used for prevention. People who are at higher risk can benefit from this prevention method. According to WHO, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria. For pregnant women living in moderate-to-high transmission areas, at least three doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, three doses of periodic preventive medicine with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations.
To prevent complications and death, early diagnosis and treatment are advised. The best available treatment is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT)
WHO recommends that all suspected cases be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatment. Results of parasitological confirmation can be available in 30 minutes or less. Treatment solely based on symptoms should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not possible. More detailed recommendations are available in the third edition of the “WHO Guidelines for the treatment of malaria,” published in April 2015.