According to World Health Organization (WHO) experts, malaria will not be eradicated in the foreseeable future even though it is achievable and will save millions of lives.

Why? Although the WHO remains committed to the disappearance of every single malaria parasite from the face of the earth, progress has stalled in the last 2 years. Further action calls for a major investment to scale up current interventions as well as strong political leadership to ensure affordable healthcare in affected countries.

Better data on malaria transmission, better tools to control mosquitos as well as protection and treatment of people in malaria regions, needs to be addressed.

Malaria is still very much prevalent in Africa and the statistics are alarming. South Africa reported about 11 700 cases of the disease in 2014.

The WHO would like to make you aware of the following facts:

  • Malaria is the second biggest killer in Africa after AIDS.
  • Half of the world’s population – approximately 3.2 billion people – are at risk of contracting malaria.
  • A child dies every minute from malaria.
  • 90% of malaria related deaths occur in Africa.
  • Pregnant women and newborns are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

World Malaria Day is marked each year on 25 April. So, brush up on your knowledge and spread the word.

How do you get malaria?

Malaria is a parasitic infection transmitted from person to person by the bite of the infected female Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes usually bite from around dusk to dawn. Once transferred to the human body, the infection travels to the liver where it multiplies and then enters the red blood cells.

Inside the red blood cells the parasites multiply rapidly until they burst, releasing even more parasites into the blood stream. Remember: Not all mosquitoes cause malaria.  

Is malaria treatable?

Yes, but malaria infected patients need to be reached quickly. That’s part of the problem. The remote nature of many parts of Africa and other affected regions, the difficulty of recognising that a patient has contracted the disease, and the lack of available medicines; contribute to effective treatment not starting quick enough. The result: Too many people die.

Malaria begins as a flu-like illness, with symptoms first occurring 9-14 days after infection. Symptoms include fever, sweats, joint pain, headaches, frequent vomiting, convulsions and coma. If malaria is left untreated, it can become severe and lead to damage to vital organs, or death.

What are the strategies to fight malaria?

Prevention is achieved through:

  • The use of bed nets preferably treated with insecticide. One bed net can protect 2 people for up to 3 years.
  • Removing areas of water where mosquitoes breed.
  • House spraying with insecticide.
  • Educating people by making them aware of these actions to help prevent malaria.
  • Monitoring mosquito populations to understand which insecticides they are sensitive to.

Treatment includes:

The use of relevant and effective drugs, as well as the availability of those drugs in a timely fashion, is key. Unfortunately the malaria parasite has become resistant to many drugs which have been used to treat malaria in the past. Continuous and substantial research is needed in the fight against malaria.

If you plan to travel to malaria risk areas in South Africa, make sure to take the necessary precautions. Consult a health care professional for the latest advice on malaria prophylaxis as it changes regularly.

Source: allafrica.com, www.southafrica.info, www.msf.org.za, www.mhss.gov.na, www.afro.who.int, www.who.int, www.health24.com, www.savenues.com, www.againstmalaria.com, plancanada.ca, www.netsforlifeafrica.org, www.theguardian.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.