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  • 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.

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    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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Malaria prediction made easy

By Bernard Okebe - Kenya

Dr Andrew Githeko has sampled scientific works for decades and witnessed climate-related epidemics like malaria leaving many people either ill or dead.

After realizing that the epidemics may have been caused by climate change in the highlands, Dr. Githeko created a climate-based early Malaria epidemic prediction model now being used in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda highlands in the fight against Malaria.

TheHead of Climate and Human Health Research Unit at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has been worried by increased epidemics and their impacts especially from early 1990s.

But what prompted the researcher to critically think of climate change and Malaria link?  Since late 1980s, malaria epidemics have occurred in East African highlands affecting thousands of people and killing many. In most incidences, health authorities and human populations were caught unawares leading to slow and ineffective response.

 Dr. Githeko explains that by then, the malaria parasites had developed resistance to chloroquine and there were no mosquito control programs. This, he observes, meant that a late response to an epidemic with medicines that were not effective resulted in a failure to control the epidemic.

 “In addition, epidemics occurred after heavy rains and many of the highland communities were inaccessible due to poor roads and few health functional facilities. This caused more suffering and deaths from Malaria,” he told Eyes on Malaria in an interview.

Dr Githeko has now developed a computer programme that uses weather data to detect anomalous temperatures and rainfall. 

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), epidemics should be detected within two weeks of their occurrence and a response launched.Because the epidemic affected large populations, quite often the health systems could not launch an effective response, noted the chief research scientist at KEMRI.

 Malaria in the highlands was characterized by cerebral complications and anaemia which required hospitalization of the patients. In addition, the disease caused severe complications in pregnant women who also required hospitalization. “This meant that hospitals could not cope with the number of cases that increase sometimes by as much as 700 per cent, says Dr. Githeko.

The development of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes is controlled by temperature. Similarly, the rate of malaria parasite development in mosquitoes is also very sensitive to temperature.Rainfall creates breeding habitats for malaria mosquitoes.

The scientist used well-known mathematical equation to test his hypothesis and the results indicated that a rise in temperature and rainfall would increase malaria transmission in areas that previously had very little malaria. This was the case of the highlands of Western Kenya.

Dr. Githeko then hypothesized that if the weather condition that leads to increased mosquito and malaria parasite development could be detected then it would be possible to develop an early warning system that would give health authorities more time to prepare, respond and prevent the epidemics from occurring.

Increased temperatures first increase mosquito populations that breed in permanent breeding sites such as streams and other water bodies.

Rainfall that follows this abnormal warming then creates more mosquito breeding habitats resulting in increased mosquito populations and malaria transmission.

 The computer program was developed to detect these conditions in weather data and then calculate the risk of an epidemic occurring.

 “It was found that this prediction model could detect epidemic causing weather 2-3 months before the actual epidemic occurred.”

The model has been automated so that once the weather data is loaded into the model the risk of the epidemic would be automatically calculated and plotted on a graph,” explains KEMRI’s chief researcher.

This information would then be sent to health authorities who would then make a decision on whether interventions were required and where they were required.

The models that have been developed for specific highland ecosystems in the East African highlands have been tested and validated.

Apart from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Dr. Githeko says the Model can also work well in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea where there are highlands.

They now provide health authorities with decision making tools that reduce the uncertainty associated with managing a climate risk.  Running the models has no cost implications. The models are now being used for early prediction of malaria epidemics in the western Kenya highlands.

Fortunately the use of long lasting insecticide treated nets, indoor residual spraying and access to effective medication have significantly reduced malaria transmission and the likelihood of epidemics in the highlands.

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