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Is It Always Malaria?
Malaria is transmitted by the bite or injection of a female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito needs human blood to satisfy its cyclical reproductive requirements. In exchange, it releases its saliva into the human bloodstream. Africa bears 80% of the global malaria burden, of which Nigeria together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo account for about 29%. In Nigeria, it is responsible for 60% of clinic outpatients and 30% of hospitalizations, 11% of maternal deaths, 25% of infant deaths and 30% of under-5 deaths. These are very serious numbers, but as we move away from malaria endemic areas like Nigeria, it becomes even more serious. The last thing a white man from the United States who visits Nigeria or any of the sub-Saharan countries for the first time wants is to be asked to sleep outside in a mosquito-infested marshy area without at least a mosquito net. He might have to start writing his dying will soon.
So who is most affected here? Pregnant women, children under 5 years old, severely malnourished children, people whose body soldiers (immunocompromised) have been excessively weakened and the elderly due to the aging of the immune system.
In the past, malaria was thought to be caused by stress, prolonged exposure to the sun, bad air (mal-means bad and aria-means air), eating too much fatty food, and strangely, eating too much pawpaw and oranges!
You may be interested to know that mosquito bites are not the only means by which malaria is usually transmitted. A mother can also pass the baton to her unborn child, in which case it is called congenital malaria. Another mode of transmission is the transfusion of infected blood to uninfected persons.
HOW DO I KNOW IT’S MALARIA?
Many times we have all had a good experience of what it is like to suffer from malaria, but there are alsoother medical conditions that can manifest as malaria, such as typhoid, flu or colds, and therefore a correct diagnosis is as important as appropriate treatment . We don’t want to end up filling a holey basket with our expensive fruit juice. In many remote places where no sophisticated equipment is used to diagnose malaria, it depends only on the physician’s judgment and interpretations of the symptoms presented by the patient. These symptoms include fever, which is high and usually occurs in the evening, headache, chills and rigors (severe shivering from the feeling of cold), vomiting and lying about due to general weakness of the joints and muscles. In severe cases of malaria, the sufferer may become anemic, vomit profusely, be hypoglycemic (highly reduced blood sugar less than about 4 mmol/l), go into shock, have kidney failure, have breathing problems, and sometimes abnormal bleeding. If you are not sure it is malaria, do not start treatment for typhoid without confirmation with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) or microscopy to test for the presence of malaria parasites. Widals test should be repeated to confirm typhoid fever.
PREVENTION OF MALARIA
Let’s start with our environmental hygiene practices, regular drainage evacuations, elimination of mosquito breeding sites, proper waste management, puncturing cans before disposal, filling identified breeding sites with sand and flood protection strategies.
Furthermore, we should use available LLINs (long-lasting insecticidal nets) or ITNs (insecticide-treated nets). Another alternative is the use of IRS (internal residual spraying), when the walls and ceilings of our houses are sprayed 3-4 times a year with insecticides. For pregnant women, the way to the above measures is IPTp (intermittent preventive treatment). Apart from those not listed here, there are other methods of preventing malaria.
TREATMENT OF MALARIA
Malaria treatment is usually a 3-day modality. However, make sure you treat malaria by doing an RDT or microscopy to detect the presence of the malaria parasite. Every modern medical center in your area should have these devices. Get your doctor’s advice on what kind of medication you should be taking, what works for Mr. A may not necessarily work for Mr. B. Most of the medications available in your drug stores are ACT (artemisinin based combination therapy). Severe cases of malaria may require admission with immediate intravenous (intravenous) medication/drips. Don’t throw tablets under the bed or down the toilet as malaria often returns if not treated properly, this is for those who despise drug use!
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