The Cold, hard Facts
Malaria is the number one killer of children under 5 years, taking the life of a child every 2 minutes. In fact, 70% of all malaria deaths occur in the same age group. This is according to the latest “World Malaria Report” released in November 2017 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report also reveals that there were 216 million cases of Malaria in 2016. This is a 9% rise from 211 million cases in 2015. Estimates show that there were 445,000 malaria deaths in 2016 which is close to the 446,000 deaths experienced in 2015.
Unfortunately, Malaria is still a disease burden in Africa where 15 countries carry 80% of the global malaria burden. The region bears 90% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths worldwide. In 2016, Africa alone reported 194 million Malaria cases compared to Americas 875,000 reported cases. Similarly, there were 407,000 reported Malaria deaths in Africa compared to 650 deaths in America. The reported Malaria cases and deaths in Eastern Mediterranean, South East Asia and West Pacific are also significantly lower to Africa’s reported cases and deaths.
For over 7 decades now, WHO has been providing support to countries to help eradicate malaria. This year, which also marks its 70th anniversary, is indeed no exception and has the theme ‘Ready to beat Malaria’, which units the global malaria community under the common goal of achieving a malaria-free world.
Malaria comes from the Italian word ‘bad air’ and it is a word said to have been in use since the 18th century.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Malaria dates back to the Ancient Chinese whose medical documents are said to have recorded Malaria symptoms. The disease was also experienced by the Ancient Greece, in the 4th century BCE which is said to have affected different states and cities.
Sarcastically, Hippocrates, one of the notable names in Ancient medicine, is said to have been one of the people that recorded Malaria symptoms.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites which are transmitted to human beings through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito which is also known as a malaria vector.
Once a person has been bitten by the infected mosquito, the parasites are said to multiply within the liver before ultimately infecting and destroying the red blood cells.
The period between the bite and the symptoms manifestation is said to be between 10-15 days. The symptoms are mostly known to be flu-like where the infected person has fever, headache and chills. At this stage, it is hard to diagnose malaria hence partly the reason why people have been known to abuse malaria drugs mostly caused by a misdiagnosis.
Other symptoms can also include diarrhoea, vomiting, sweating and body aches. In adverse cases, Malaria has been known to cause organ failure, swelling of the brain, anaemia, hypoglycaemia, and lung fluid build-up.
How it spreads
Research has shown that some people may be more prone to bugs bite due to their genetic composition, bacteria found in their bodies, among several other factors.
The most likely way to get malaria is through a mosquito bite. Other ways are from mother to unborn baby, through blood transfusion, and by sharing needles.
The world’s first Malaria vaccine will be rolled out later this year in selected areas of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Until then, the main methods of preventing Malaria remain ensuring you sleep under a treated mosquito net, using insect or mosquito repellent when in mosquito prone areas, spraying insecticide at home to keep mosquitos at bay and wearing long sleeved tops and pants.
It is important also, that you take Anti-malarial drugs if you know you will travel to a malaria zone where there is an increased risk of infection.
Malaria is a fatal disease, but also a preventable one. If diagnosed early enough, the disease it treatable. This has been made easy with the invention of a malaria home-test kit. This will go a long way in making early diagnosis but also in prevention of a misdiagnosis. But as they say, Prevention is better than cure; stay alert.1