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TIPS ON MALARIA

  • HOW CAN MOSQUITOES BE CONTROLLED?

    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.

  • HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM MOSQUITO-BORN DISEASES?

    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.

  • WHO ARE AT RISK?


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.
     

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  • Volume 1

Graveyards of malaria?

By James Addy, Ghana
 

YOUNG Maxwell, aged 13, a Junior  High School student, the youngest and only male child of five siblings, returned home from school on sometime in December last year complaining of severe headache with a temperature that has gone very high.

Maxwell's father, a Civil Servant with a government ministry in Accra was quickly informed on telephone about his son's condition and he immediately directed his trader wife to give Maxwell some paracetamol tablets to provide some relief their son.

It was difficult for Maxwell to sleep that night as he continued to suffer from a splitting headache and chills. He was later rushed to hospital.

Several laboratory tests were run on him Maxwell's condition did not get any better as he lost appetite for food completely.

At exactly 1 o'clock midnight, Maxwell ( so much adored by his family and members of his local church where he has learnt to play the organ and sometimes stands in during the absence of the organist) he breathed his last breath, gone to be seen no more.

An anxious and grief-striken parents of Maxwell were informed later by the pathologist that their son died of cerebral malaria.

The havoc and misery that malaria causes to individuals and families have often been taken for granted by many.

According to a fact sheet by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), an international medical charity, every year, malaria kills 1.2 million people and infects 300-500 million in the world.

Ninety per cent of deaths occur in sub- Saharan Africa.

The disease is said to be present in over 100 countries, threatening 40 per cent of the world population.

The MSF says “malaria not only cut lives short but has a huge socio-economic impact: patients are often bedridden and incapable of carrying out normal daily activities. The disease causes considerable loss of income and places a heavy burden on families, health
systems and society as a whole.”

Patients who seek treatment for malaria, the medical authorities say, constitute the highest of recorded cases in Out-Patient Departments in Ghanaian hospitals. Lack of knowledge on the havoc that malaria could wreak on individuals has led to a state of complacency in most families and  communities.

DISEASE
A wa re n e s s ca m p a i g n s o n t h e  seriousness of the disease and its fatal consequences have often been downplayed by especially people who patronise local herbal concoctions for the treatment of malaria. They often consider the disease so common and proudly claim that their clansmen and women have over the years relied on local remedies and not conventional scientific medicine for the effective treatment of malaria.

Dr Margaret Gyapong, a social researcher at the Dodowa Health Research Centre in the Dangme West District, explains that “attempts at malaria control in the past failed because too often behavioural and socio-cultural aspects that influence people's attitude were considered an afterthought.” She disclosed that early work on malaria focused on vector control without reference to human behaviour and belief systems.

According to the WHO at least 300 million people suffer from acute malaria each year. Children aged under five years, pregnant women, unborn children and the elderly are the most vulnerable with about 3,000 deaths a day. Malaria attacks are associated with
p o o r s o c i a l a n d e c o n o m i c environmental conditions and victims are mainly the poor.

Local perceptions about the causation of malaria include standing in the sun, eating sweet and oily food, poor environmental sanitation, poorly cooked food and convulsion.

Surprisingly, most organizations and individuals embark on frequent public clean-up campaigns to clear rubbish and  other filth in gutters as a measure to eradicate mosquitoes in general. But the anopheles mosquito, the peculiar specie prevalent in West Africa is found in “clean and stagnant waters” and at even unexpected places like flower pots, where it tends to seek shelter.

Keeping a clean environment is desirable but targeting the actual breeding site of “clean and stagnant waters” for effective control should be the ultimate. Some people mistake malaria symptoms to be typhoid and would pursue the wrong treatment until their physical conditions worsen, sometimes resulting in death. The matter is not helped when some clinicians sometimes misdiagnose malaria cases in their haste to attend to other patients.

Nafisatu, a JHS student in Accra, told her story: “I reported to the doctor that I  was feeling feverish and was looking forward to further guidance from him on possibly a laboratory test, but before I could finish my story he handed me a prescription to go and buy medicines and I wondered whether I have had a thorough examination.”

PARASITES
Incomplete treatment of malaria leaves some of the parasites in the blood- stream. It is a fact that has been hammered so often that it now sounds like a boring subject yet it is at the root of the resistance of some malaria drugs to effective treatment.

Of course, if the cost of malaria drugs is so high people especially in rural  communities might tend to defer treatment, oblivious of the adverse consequences. Sometimes the long
travel distance to a clinic or hospital, combined with the cost of drugs tend to offer as easy excuse to some people to resort to local remedies, some of which have not gone through certification by the Food and Drugs Board for their efficacy and safety to be ascertained.

Again, data collection on malaria cases in the country has become difficult because a lot of malaria related illness or death often take place at private home and health authorities cannot obtain the figures for policy planning.

Dr. Constance Bart-Plange, programme manager of Ghana's Malaria Control Programme, says malaria is the leading source of illness and absenteeism in  school-age children and teachers, and the leading cause of child mortality in endemic areas.

It causes anemia in pregnant women and low birth weight in infants. Malaria morbidity and mortality, Mrs Bart- Plange says are increasing in Africa. She said the current malaria control strategies are to provide early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Another strategy is to detect malaria prevalence early, contain it or prevent the epidemic.

Prof Fred Binka, Project Manager of Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance(MCTA), says the Food and Drug Board should be properly equipped to test and also certify malaria drugs to prevent the consumption of fake drugs with adverse consequences on the health of people.

Malaria can be eradicated from the continent of Africa and the time to act is now.

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