Malaria

The following article was contributed by Jerri Guo.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2010, malaria caused an estimated 655,000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 537,000 to 907,000), mostly among African children.

Malaria is preventable and curable. Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places. The intensity of transmission depends on factors related to the parasite, the vector, the human host, and the environment.

Following are excerpts from World Health Organization (WHO) information page, which is located here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/

Key Facts

  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
  • In 2010, malaria caused an estimated 655,000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 537,000 to 907,000), mostly among African children.
  • Malaria is preventable and curable.
  • Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
  • The intensity of transmission depends on factors related to the parasite, the vector, the human host, and the environment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission.
  • The best available treatment, particularly for P. falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
  • WHO recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatment. Results of parasitological confirmation can be available in 15 minutes or less. Treatment solely on the basis of symptoms should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not possible.
  • Resistance to antimalarial medicines is a recurring problem. Resistance of P. falciparum to previous generations of medicines, such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), became widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, undermining malaria control efforts and reversing gains in child survival.
  • Resistance to artemisinins was reported on the Cambodia-Thailand border in 2009, and has since been reported in Myanmar and Viet Nam. If resistance to artemisinins develops and spreads to other large geographical areas, the public health consequences could be dire, as no alternative antimalarial medicines will be available for at least five years.
  • WHO recommends the routine monitoring of antimalarial drug resistance, and supports countries to strengthen their efforts in this important area of work.

Prevention

  • Vector control is the main way to reduce malaria transmission at the community level. It is the only intervention that can reduce malaria transmission from very high levels to close to zero.
  • For individuals, personal protection against mosquito bites represents the first line of defense for malaria prevention.
  • Two forms of vector control are effective in a wide range of circumstances:
    • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
    • Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are the preferred form of ITNs for public health distribution programmes. WHO recommends coverage for all at-risk persons; and in most settings. The most cost effective way to achieve this is through provision of free LLINs, so that everyone sleeps under a LLIN every night.
  • Indoor spraying with residual insecticides. Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria.

According to the UNICEF website, malaria takes the life of a child in Africa every 30 seconds.  You can purchase a mosquito net to be sent by UNICEF for under $20.00 at http://www.unicefusa.org.  If you know of other sources, please let us know at the Unity Women’s Desk (unitywomen2011@gmail.com).

The nets are not the total solution. Studies have found that many people in rural Africa do not use the nets or do not use them as prescribed.  Ways are being sought to encourage net use and to find other, more acceptable ways to prevent malaria. Scientists are also working on a vaccine; however, because there are several types of malarial infection, no one solution has been found. Please pray for an end to malaria.