You Can Prevent Malaria in these 3 Ways

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Today is World Malaria Day and governments, organizations and individuals all over the world are having discussions on the various ways to achieve a world that is free of malaria.

Malaria is a major public health concern in Africa because hundreds of thousands of people still die from it every year, with pregnant women, children under 5 years of age and those living with HIV/AIDs being the most affected groups. In addition, malaria in pregnancy contributes to pregnant women developing complications like miscarriage, stillbirth, giving birth prematurely, anaemia in the woman (her blood drops to a dangerously low level)

With the theme of this year's World Malaria Day being "End Malaria for Good", you can prevent malaria and effectively treat it before it becomes very serious in the following ways:

1. Proper Use of Insecticide-Treated Nets

Insecticide-treated nets, when used correctly, prevents the mosquito carrying the malaria-causing parasite from coming in contact with your body. Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets are distributed free of charge to pregnant women and new nursing mothers in many health centres in Nigeria and many other African countries. There are also programs that aim to distribute these nets to families in places like schools, churches, and mosques. Most insecticide-treated nets last for about 4 to 5 years before needing replacement.

Getting insecticide-treated nets doesn't prevent you from having malaria; using the nets the right way is what prevents malaria infection. Below are steps on the correct use of the insecticide-treated nets:

-when you just receive a new mosquito net, remove it from the pack and spread it in an open place for one or two days before using it.

-ensure you have fixed wooden poles at the four edges of the beds from which you hang the net using the strings at its corners, or you have nails on the roof over your mattress to which you can attach the strings of the net and hang it over the mattress.

-make sure you tuck the net under the mattress or mat so mosquitoes will find no space to enter

-always roll up the net during the day to prevent it from getting damaged by people walking around or other activities in the room

-sew up with a needle and thread any hole you notice in the net no matter how small

-wash the net only when it is dirty with water and soap. Do not wash it more than 5 times in a year. After washing the net, spread it in an open place, preferably under a tree shade, but not under direct sunlight as this affects the quality of the insecticide on the net.

2. Indoor Residual Spraying

This is the application of an effective insecticide to the inside of houses, on the walls and other surfaces that can serve as a resting place for mosquitoes carrying the malaria-causing parasite.

This malaria prevention method is not common, but it has been shown to be very effective. Once sprayed, it can last for about 6 months, during which mosquitoes that rest on the sprayed surfaces will die. When combined with the use of insecticide-treated nets, this malaria prevention method is very effective.

3. Proper Treatment of Malaria

While preventing contact with mosquitoes carrying the malaria-causing parasite is the best way to tackle malaria, effective treatment is very important for those who get bitten by these mosquitoes and come down with malaria.

However, treating malaria effectively involves:

A. Doing a test before starting treatment. This is because the symptoms of malaria are not specific, meaning other illness can present with such symptoms. So, taking an anti-malarial drug based on just symptoms can result in complications of another illness due to wrong treatment because such illness presented with malaria-like symptoms.

The governments of many African countries are making available cheap rapid diagnostic test kits in health centres for quick testing of blood samples of people with malaria-like symptoms for the presence of malaria parasites. So, ensure you undergo a rapid diagnostic test for malaria before taking an anti-malarial drug.

B. Ensuring you complete the anti-malarial drug prescription.

Many people stop taking their anti-malarial medication once the symptoms disappear because they feel they have recovered and there is no need to complete the drugs. This is wrong and dangerous because it can lead to drug resistance. When you don't complete an anti-malarial medication, all the malaria parasites in your blood will not be killed. The malaria parasites that survive will become resistant to the medication, multiply in your blood and attack the red blood cells in a more deadly way. In addition, the anti-malarial medication you take for this new malaria may require more doses to be effective or may not even be effective.

C. Every pregnant woman should receive what is known as intermittent preventive therapy (IPT) for malaria during antenatal care. In addition to proper use of insecticide-treated net, IPT effectively prevents the pregnant woman from coming down with malaria.

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Published Tuesday, April 25th 2017

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