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Nov 03
Southern African Development Community commemorates Malaria Day 2022

By Mandisa Dlamini (Health Systems Trust Communications Intern)

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) commemorates Malaria Day on 6 November every year. Government explains that the purpose of this day is to mobilise communities through health education to recognise signs and symptoms of malaria, provide more home-based treatment, encourage people to seek treatment when they become ill and to make people aware of personal protective measures.


What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite. The parasite is spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. People who have malaria usually feel very sick with a high fever and shaking chills. While the disease is uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is still common in tropical and subtropical countries.

Each year nearly 290 million people are infected with malaria, and more than 400,000 people die of the disease. Malaria is therefore a serious illness that needs to be combated by any means necessary.


Where can you contract malaria?

Malaria is prevalent in subtropical areas like sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central America and northern South America.


What are the symptoms of malaria?

Signs and symptoms of malaria may include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cough


Some people who have malaria experience cycles of malaria "attacks". An attack usually starts with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever, followed by sweating and a return to normal temperature. Malaria signs and symptoms typically begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, some types of malaria parasites can lie dormant in your body for up to a year.


How can malaria be prevented?

  • If you live in or are traveling to an area where malaria is common, take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn.

  • To protect yourself from mosquito bites, cover your skin, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts, tuck in your shirt and tuck pant legs into socks.

  • Apply insect repellent to skin. Use an insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency on any exposed skin and apply repellent to clothing. Sprays containing permethrin are safe to apply to clothing.

  • Sleep under a net. Bed nets, particularly those treated with insecticides, such as permethrin, help prevent mosquito bites while you are sleeping.

  • If you'll be traveling to a location where malaria is common, talk to your doctor a few months ahead of time about whether you should take drugs before, during and after your trip to help protect you from malaria parasites. In general, the drugs taken to prevent malaria are the same drugs used to treat the disease. What drug you take depends on where and how long you are traveling and your own health.


Can I get vaccinated for malaria?

According to The Conversation, developing a vaccine for malaria has proved to be a far more difficult task than developing one for Covid-19, and research has been conducted to find a suitable vaccine for years. What makes it so challenging is that a parasite such as malaria can take on different forms in different hosts and is ever evolving to escape the human immune system. The first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix by GSK, was approved by the WHO after 30 years of research and numerous clinical trials. This ground breaking vaccine received prequalification from the WHO in September 2022. Receiving prequalification from the WHO is a mandatory prerequisite for United Nation (UN) agencies like UNICEF to produce a vaccine in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and eligible countries. The World Health Organization has recommended a malaria vaccine for use in children who live in countries with high numbers of malaria cases.

Huge strides have been made in the prevention and combatting of malaria, and the Mosquirix vaccine is a major breakthrough that should alleviate much suffering in vulnerable countries. By continuing to spread awareness about the prevention and control of this deadly disease, malaria can hopefully be brought under control.

 


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