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Health News of Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Source: unice Achiaa Adjei

Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure

Malaria is a leading cause of disease and death in most malaria endemic countries, especially in sub-Sahara Africa. It accounts for over 3 million out-patient visits and over 4000 deaths annually in the Ghana. It is reported that in the year 2008, 39.5% of all outpatient illnesses, 30.0% of all admissions and 33.4% of all deaths in children under-five years, was attributable to malaria in Ghana. It also accounted for 13.8% of all OPD attendances in pregnant women, 10.6% of admissions and 5.98% of deaths in pregnant women recorded in public health institutions. Children under five years are considered the most vulnerable and account for over a third (36-40%) of all outpatient malaria cases.

Malaria is transmitted through the bite of an infective female Anopheles mosquito and is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. Even though it is a potentially fatal disease, in majority of the cases, the disease can be prevented and death avoided if it is detected early and an appropriate, effective and prompt treatment is given. Symptoms of the uncomplicated malaria may include fever, chills, headache and diarrhoea among others. In Ghana malaria transmission is high throughout the year especially during the rainy seasons. Less commonly, malaria transmission may occur through accidental transfusion with infected blood. Unlike common cold or flu, one cannot get malaria from casual contact with malaria-infected persons neither is it a spiritual disease as some people still believe nor can it be caused by witchcraft. Of course like any other disease, preventing malaria is better than a cure. In Ghana where the risk of malaria is high, preventive strategies are recommended. Some of these strategies include avoiding mosquito bites especially at night by sleeping under insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs), which are especially effective; or by covering doors and windows with insecticide treated curtains to prevent mosquitoes from entering and hiding in rooms.

Pregnant women should attend the Antenatal Clinic for their Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT) which is initiated after they feel the first movement of the baby (quickening).IPT is the administration of Sulphadoxine –Pyrimethamine (SP) to the pregnant woman at the antenatal clinic under direct observation therapy. This will help prevent the unborn baby and the mother from getting malaria.

However, should you get malaria; there is considerable hope of being cured if an immediate action is taken. In Ghana, the approved drugs for treating simple or uncomplicated malaria are Artesunate- Amodaiquine, Arthemeter Lumefantrine and Dihydroartemisinin Piperaquine.Before any of these drugs can be taken, doctors should have confirmed based on a demonstration of the Plasmodium falciparum parasites in the patient’s blood prior to treatment.

Malaria is responsible for one out of every four childhood deaths in Africa .These childhood deaths often occur within two days of developing symptoms. From this, we can see that mothers and caregivers of children especially less than five years should act very fast when their wards gets fever, cold or any of the symptoms of malaria.

Every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria somewhere in the world. Eighty percent (80%) of malaria cases and 90% of deaths in malaria are recorded in Africa. Malaria kills about one million people each year (mainly children under five years). Women are four times likely to get sick of malaria if they are pregnant and twice likely to die from the disease.

Certainly, it's better to prevent the disease from developing in the first place but you can also take the chance of living free from this deadly disease by treating it promptly and adequately. “Malaria Kills Fight It Now’’.

Eunice Achiaa Adjei (National Service Personnel)

National Malaria Control Programme