As the world observes World Malaria Day, the need to raise awareness about this disease cannot be ignored. A coordinated approach by government organisations, active participation by media, education of health workers and municipal personnel, and conducting conferences and seminars for the general public are some of the proven ways of creating awareness on malaria infection and its prevention.
Malaria is one of the significant public health issues in developing countries. Approximately 36% of the world population is susceptible to the risk of contracting malaria in 90 countries. WHO estimates 300–500 million malaria cases every year, and 90% of these cases are in Africa alone.
According to the World Health Organisation, in India, about 15 million cases and 20,000 deaths are reported annually due to this disease. India contributes 77% of total malaria cases in Southeast Asia.
How is the disease transmitted?
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of female mosquitoes. The disease is caused by parasites called P. vivax and P. falciparum, that are present in the mosquito and therefore act as a vector for disease transmission. The transmission is intensified by climatic conditions, such as high rainfall, high temperatures, and high humidity. In these conditions, the mosquitoes’ lifespan is longer which increases the chances of transmission.
Symptoms to look out for
Malaria usually begins with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever and sweating. Symptoms typically begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In some types, the parasites can lie dormant in your body for up to a year. Generally, the infection is characterised by the following symptoms:
Children, infants, and pregnant women are especially prone to severe malaria. Looking at how fast malaria can become life-threatening, it is important to get medical attention as quickly as possible. See a doctor if you’re getting a fever with chills while living in or travelling to an area that has high incidences of malaria.
How can we prevent malaria?
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease and its prevention requires intervention by multiple stakeholders. Spraying homes, schools, hospitals, offices with insecticides and sleeping under insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are two of the most effective prevention measures. There is also a need for environmental control to prevent mosquito breeding grounds.
When prevention of malaria fails, treatment becomes crucial. Having access to healthcare centres and health care workers who have the knowledge to treat this disease at its different stages is vital for effective treatment.
With concerted global efforts, the number of deaths due to malaria have halved in the last decade, but there are still approximately 219 million cases every year, resulting in more than half a million deaths (2019).
Malaria in the times of COVID-19 pandemic
WHO says that early diagnosis and treatment is key to prevent the disease from progressing. Therefore, one must scale back the efforts to detect and treat malaria amidst the pandemic. Apart from routine malaria control measures, countries should focus on presumptive treatment (diagnostic testing) and the use of mass drug administration. However, the WHO says these special measures should only be adopted by consideration of two things: lowering the mortality rate and safety of health workers.
Currently, chloroquine is the treatment recommended for P. vivax malaria. The dosage of this drug for COVID-19 is currently under consideration and does not reflect those used for treating malaria patients. Not only does the dosage of the drug does not reflect those used for treating malaria patients, but the efficacy in the treatment of a COVID-19 infection is still under research and speculations. The ingestion of HCQ or chloroquine can lead to unnecessary adverse drug reactions and hence self-medication is strongly advised against.
The need of the hour is to have an integrated intervention plan not just for the prevention of this disease, but also its diagnosis and treatment. A general physician at MFine will be able to recognise this disease and treat you to health.
Note: If you have any health concerns for yourself or your family, you can now speak to top doctors online on our platform. You can also take the free COVID-19 self-assessment to know your risk of contracting coronavirus infection. In case you’re experiencing symptoms like sore throat, cough, fever, or breathing difficulty, get your symptoms assessed by top doctors on your phone on the MFine app.