Malaria is an illness caused by a parasite transmitted to human beings through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitos. There are five human malaria parasites namely Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium knowlesi, Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium malariae. IAMAT Organization reports that Plasmodium Falciparum is the most dangerous of all the five. When the female mosquito bites a person who has malaria, it sucks the blood up, which contains one of the mentioned parasites. When the mosquito bites the next person, it injects the parasites into the person’s blood system, and that is how malaria spreads.
About 210 million individuals are infected with malaria every year and approximately 440, 000 individuals die from the disease. The majority of the casualties are children mostly in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected as it had 88% of all malaria cases in the world and 90% of malaria deaths in 2015.
The situation is not different in Kenya either because it remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the country. The report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that 16, 000 individuals died of malaria in 2016 which represents a 23% drop from 20, 691 death cases reported.
Risk of malaria is present in most urban and rural areas of the country including Nairobi. The risk is minimal in high altitude areas that are above 2500 m /8202 ft of the provinces of Western, Central, Nyanza, and Rift Valley. The risk of malaria is high below the altitude of 2500 meters such as areas around Lake Victoria and the coastal region.
Malaria symptoms are categorized into two: uncomplicated and severe malaria. The symptoms of uncomplicated malaria include;
- A sensation of cold with shivering
- Seizures sometimes take place in young people with the disease
- Fever, headache, and vomiting
- Sweats, followed by a return to normal temperature coupled with tiredness
Symptoms of uncomplicated malaria normally last between 6 and 10 hours and recur every second day. Note that if it remains untreated, uncomplicated malaria becomes severe malaria. The same happens if the person has poor immunity. The symptoms of severe malaria include;
- Impaired consciousness
- Fever and chills
- Multiple convulsions
- Prostration, or adopting a prone position
- Fever and chills
- Deep breathing and respiratory pain
- Clinical jaundice and evidence of vital organ dysfunction
- Abnormal bleeding and signs of anemia
If severe malaria remains untreated, it can lead to death.
According to the World Health Organization, the people considered at higher risk of contracting malaria include infants, children aged 5 and below, patients with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women, as well as mobile populations and travelers.
Malaria treatment aims to get rid of the Plasmodium parasite from the blood system. People who do not show symptoms may be treated for infection to minimize the risk of disease transmission. WHO recommends the use of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for treating uncomplicated malaria. It reduces the concentration of the parasites in the blood system.
Doctors mostly combine ACT with a partner drug that eliminates the remaining parasites in the bloodstream. In Kenya, the most used Malaria drugs are the artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs (ACTs), and as of May 2019, it retails for KSH.40. Other malaria treatment drugs available in Kenya are artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and Pyramax.
Prevention and Control Measures
Malaria is prevented using different ways such as;
- Sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net
- Apply indoor spraying with residual insecticides
- Use of insect repellants that contain diethyltoluamide (DEET)