According to WHO, Malaria endemic countries in all WHO regions have reported cases of the Coronavirus. While the world is battling this deadly disease coronavirus, we should not lose focus on control of another deadly disease viz. Malaria. In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria in 89 countries. No significant gains were made in reducing malaria cases in the period 2014 to 2018. The estimated number of malaria deaths in 2018 stood at 405 000, a similar number to the previous year. As per W.H.O., India contributes 77 % of cases in South-East Asia.
The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone undermined malaria control efforts and led to a massive increase in malaria-related illness and death in the 3 countries. These initial experiences of the Ebola outbreak in Malaria-endemic regions point to the need for these nations to consider preventive measures against not only the COVID-19 menace but also its likely repercussions on existing malaria control efforts. India has been historically known for Malaria Endemic and should continue with the awareness and precaution measures for Malaria.
WHO strongly encourages countries not to suspend the planning for or implementation of mosquito control activities, while ensuring these services are delivered using best practices to protect health workers and communities from COVID-19 infection.
Key highlights and facts about this disease:
· Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by malarial parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
· Malaria is seasonal and is more common during and just after the rainy season in India
· Malaria is preventable and curable.
· Enhanced malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
· Non-affected travelers from malaria-free areas are very vulnerable to the disease when they get infected.
Look out for these signs and symptoms:
The common symptoms of malaria are Chills, fever, sweating, headache, muscle pain, nausea & vomiting. Severe cases may exhibit symptoms such as jaundice, convulsions & coma especially in infection with Falciparum malaria. Initial symptoms may be similar to many bacterial, viral and parasitic infections and that may pose a challenge for an accurate diagnosis. The symptoms may repeat every 48 – 72 hours with asymptomatic intervals.
Diagnosis & Treatment options available:
The diagnosis of malaria depends on the symptoms along with the physical examination and blood test. There is a variety of drugs now available for the treatment of malaria which should be taken under medical supervision only.
Since we are all under lockdown in India, here are some preventive measures of Malaria you can follow by staying indoors:
1. Keep the windows and doors closed in the evening in mosquito-infested regions
2. Have screens/wire mesh to cover windows and doors and check their integrity
3. Use a mosquito net over your bed (Permethrin coated nets if available)
4. Use / Plugin mosquito repellents to avoid mosquito bites
5. Apply mosquito repellent to the exposed skin
6. Empty and refill the flower vases regularly at least once a week
7. Indoor residual spraying of walls may be another mosquito control measureHowever, these measures should be followed not only during the lockdown period but all the time.
There are some measures to be adopted for outdoor activity which are equally important. These may be adopted by individuals, housing societies, communities, and local self-government bodies.
1. Wear protective clothing over arms and legs while going out
2. Apply mosquito repellent to the exposed skin
3. Spray mosquito repellent on clothing to prevent mosquitoes frombiting through thin clothing
4. Avoid exposure to mosquitoes during the early morning and early evening hours (these are the hours of greatest mosquito activity)
5. Keep residential and work areas clean
6. Spraying stagnant water and ponds with insecticide to avoid breeding of mosquitoes
7. Cover water tanks on the terrace or at construction sites with a lid or any other available measure8. Use anti-malarial drugs under medical advice before visiting malaria prevalent areas