World Malaria Day - which was instituted by the World Health Assembly at its 60th session in May 2007 - is a day that recognises the global effort to provide effective control of malaria. The day is commemorated every year on April 25 to create awareness about an ancient disease and the devastating impact it has on the lives of more than 3 billion people.
Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in developing countries. As per World Health Organization’s statistics, malaria infects more than 500 million people per year and kills more than a million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even some parts of Europe.
The theme of the fourth World Malaria Day - Achieving Progress and Impact - heralds the international community's renewed efforts to make progress towards zero malaria deaths by 2015. It provides an opportunity for the global development and health communities to intensify their efforts in providing access to affordable, safe and effective anti-malarial combination treatments worldwide, as well as protective insecticide treated nets and other preventive measures. Whether you are a government, a company, a charity or an individual, you can roll back malaria and help generate broad gains in health and human development.
The barriers that impede the implementation of the Global Malaria Action Plan include resource gaps to scale up interventions; produce and deliver nets and treatments; and develop endemic countries' capacity to control malaria. There is also need to promote new initiatives and solutions and assess their impact by monitoring malaria cases.
Effective malaria control
Effective malaria control rests on people’s participation. The community needs to be made aware about malaria and its control, so that each one of us can effectively contribute to controlling this disease. The objectives of malaria control programmes range from reducing the disease burden and maintaining it at a reasonably low level, to eliminating the disease from a de?ned geographical area, and ultimately to eradicating the disease globally.
10 tips to prevent malaria
- Early diagnosis and treatment: Early detection and treatment of the disease is the cornerstone for successful control of this epidemic. This reduces the parasite load in the community thereby limiting the transmission of the disease.
Presumptive treatment of all cases of fever is very important. Tests for malarial parasite should be done in all cases of fever, and presumptive treatment with full dose of chloroquine should be administered.
- Radical treatment: All confirmed cases of fever should be administered radical treatment with primaquine. A single dose of primaquine must be administered in P. falciparum malaria to sterilise the gametocyte stage of the parasite while a 14 days course of primaquine is required in P. vivax infection to destroy the hypnozoite stage in the liver thus preventing relapse.
- Ensure compliance: Complete treatment should be ensured. If the patient vomits the drugs within an hour of ingestion, the same should be repeated. Incomplete treatment fails to clear the parasite in the blood and thereby aids spread. Many patients fail to complete the treatment due to either negligence, lack of proper education or sometimes due to adverse effects.
- Personal protection: People living in endemic areas as well as travelers to these regions should be educated and encouraged to use protective measures against malaria. These include protection against mosquito bites and chemoprophylaxis (taking medicines to prevent malaria). Mosquito bites can be prevented by closing the doors and windows in the evenings to prevent entry of mosquitoes into human dwellings; using mosquito repellant lotions, creams, mats or coils; wearing full-sleeved garments; and regular use of bednets. Using bednets has been found to be one of the safest methods of preventing and controlling malaria. Current Insecticide Treated Bednets lead to a 19% reduction in child mortality and 40-60% reduction in infection.
- Avoid mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing over the arms and legs, using mosquito nets and screens, and insect repellents (cream, lotion, spray or vaporizer).
- Anti-malarial drugs can be prescribed for visitors to areas where malaria is prevalent. Treatment should begin two weeks before entering the area, and continued for 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Sleep in rooms that are properly screened with gauze over the windows and doors. There should be no holes in the gauze and no unscreened entry points to the room. Air-conditioned rooms are good, too.
- Wear light colours while going out afternoon as light colours are less attractive to mosquitoes.
- Use bednets when sleeping in areas infested with mosquitoes.
- Use insecticides and flying insect sprays to reduce the number of mosquitoes in areas where you will be spending a significant amount of time.
- When possible, avoid camping or spending prolonged amounts of time in areas where standing water is present.
- Keep pots and pans emptied of water. Open vessels for drinking water should be covered. Mosquitoes use areas of standing water to lay their eggs.
- If you know you will be traveling in areas where malaria is prevalent, ask your doctor for anti-malarial drugs.
- Pregnant women should avoid travelling to malarious regions as it increases the risk of abortion, premature birth, still-birth and maternal death.