Malaria Health Education: overcoming misconceptions and saving lives
- Prevention of transmission: Malaria health education can help people understand how the disease is transmitted and how to prevent it. People can learn to avoid mosquito bites, use insecticide-treated nets, eliminate mosquito breeding sites, and take preventive medicines when needed.
- Recognition of symptoms: Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent serious complications and save lives. Malaria health education can seek treatment immediately if they develop symptoms
- Active participation in prevention: Malaria health education can empower people to become actively involved in preventing the disease. People can take steps to reduce their risk of contracting malaria and help educate other members of the community on how to prevent it.
- Reducing the burden of disease: When people understand how malaria is transmitted and how to prevent it, they can take steps to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. Also, by seeking treatment right away if they develop symptoms, they can prevent serious complications and reduce the costs associated with treating the disease. Malaria health education can help reduce the burden of disease in affected communities by improving disease prevention and treatment.
- Promotion of sustainable development: By understanding the factors that contribute to malaria transmission, communities can develop long-term solutions that address the underlying causes of the disease, such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites and improving living and sanitation conditions. Malaria health education can help communities develop sustainable strategies to prevent and control the disease.
How is malaria transmitted?
Malaria is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another; and maybe this is the most relevant part about the malaria health education, the disease is transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Five species of parasites can cause malaria in humans, two of which, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, pose the greatest threat. There are more than 400 different species of Anopheles mosquitoes and about 40 of them, called vector species, can transmit the disease.
The danger of infection is higher in some areas than others, depending on multiple factors, including the type of local mosquitoes. It can also vary by season, with the highest risk being during the rainy season in tropical countries. Here we highlight and incentivize the appropriate malaria health education.
What are the symptoms, and how is malaria diagnosed?
WHO recommends prompt diagnosis of suspected cases of malaria. If Plasmodium falciparum malaria is not treated within the first 24 hours, the infection can progress to a severe or even fatal form. In adults, severe malaria can lead to multi-organ failure, while in children it often manifests as severe anemia, respiratory distress, or cerebral malaria. Human malaria caused by other Plasmodium species can cause a severe, and life-threatening, form of the disease.
Malaria can be diagnosed by tests that detect the presence of the parasites that cause the disease. There are two main types of tests: microscopic examination of blood smears and rapid diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests allow health professionals to distinguish malaria from other causes of febrile illness, making it easier to administer appropriate treatment. Prior knowledge about malaria health education should be brought from home to home.
Who is at risk of becoming infected with malaria?
Almost half of the world’s population is exposed to malaria. An estimated 247 million people in 85 countries contracted malaria in 2021. That same year, the disease claimed approximately 619,000 lives.
Some people are more likely than others to develop a severe form of malaria. Infants and children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, and HIV/AIDS patients are particularly at risk. Other vulnerable groups include people who enter areas with heavy malaria transmission without having acquired partial immunity from prolonged exposure to the disease, or who do not receive chemo-preventive treatment, such as migrants, mobile populations, and travelers.
Some people who live in areas where malaria is common develop partial immunity. Although it never provides complete protection, partial immunity reduces the risk that the infection will cause a severe form of the disease. That is why in Africa the highest mortality is among young children, while in areas with less transmission and lower immunity all age groups are at risk.
How can I prevent malaria?
- Vector control interventions. It is the main approach to prevent malaria and reduce transmission. Two forms of vector control are effective for people living in malaria-endemic countries: insecticide-treated bed nets, which prevent biting while people sleep and kill mosquitoes when they try to feed, and indoor spraying with residual action insecticides, which consists of applying an insecticide to the surfaces where mosquitoes usually rest, that is, internal walls, eaves and roofs of houses and other domestic structures. For travelers, the use of an insecticide-treated net is the most practical vector control intervention.
- Chemo-preventive treatments and chemo-prophylaxis. Although they are designed to treat patients who have already been infected, some antimalarial drugs can also be used to prevent disease. It recommended chemo preventive treatments for people living in endemic areas include intermittent preventive treatment for malaria during pregnancy, intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in infants, and chemo prevention for seasonal malaria. Chemoprophylactic drugs are also administered to travelers before they enter a malaria-endemic area, and can be highly effective when combined with insecticide-treated bed nets.
What treatments are available for malaria?
The choice of medication depends on the type of Plasmodium causing the infection and the severity of the disease. Malaria health education in these cases is absolutely needy.
Malaria is a treatable disease. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the most effective antimalarial drugs currently available and are the mainstay of recommended treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the world’s deadliest malaria parasite.
TCAs combine two active drugs with different mechanisms of action, namely, including artemisinin derivatives extracted from the Artemisia annua plant and a partner drug. The function of the artemisinin compound is to reduce the number of parasites during the first three days of treatment, while that of the associated drug is to eliminate the remaining parasites.
As no alternatives to artemisinin derivatives are expected to enter the market for several years, the efficacy of ACTs needs to be preserved, so the WHO recommends that the treatment be given only to people who have tested positive for malaria.
Over the past decade, parasite resistance to antimalarial drugs has become a threat to malaria control, particularly in the Greater Mekong subregion. To date, resistance has been documented in three of the five malaria species known to affect humans: P. falciparum, P. vivax and P. malariae. However, almost all patients infected with artemisinin-resistant parasites who have been treated with TCA have been completely cured, provided the associated drug was highly effective.
Is there a vaccine?
RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is the first, and to date only, vaccine to have demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce malaria in young children living in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission. It works against the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, the deadliest and most prevalent malaria parasite in Africa.
In 2019, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi began to lead the introduction of the vaccine in selected areas under a large-scale pilot program coordinated by WHO. To date, the program has shown that the RTS,S vaccine is safe, efficacious, and feasible to administer through routine immunization services. As of March 2023, more than 1.3 million children have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine through this program. Twenty-nine countries in Africa have expressed interest in adopting the malaria vaccine as part of their national malaria control strategies.
In October 2021, WHO recommended the use of the RTS,S vaccine in children living in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission. The recommendation was based on the full RTS,S data set, including the results of the ongoing pilot program.
Where is the highest prevalence of malaria?
The vast majority of malaria cases and deaths occur in the African Region, and almost all cases are due to the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. This parasite is also prevalent in other areas of high malaria prevalence, in particular regions of South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific. In the WHO Region of the Americas, the parasite Plasmodium vivax predominates, causing 75% of malaria cases.
The malaria threat is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with four countries in that region accounting for close to half of all malaria deaths globally in 2021: Nigeria (26.6%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo ( 12.3%), Uganda (5.1%) and Mozambique (4.1%). Knowing about the correct malaria health education for allows us to take into consideration which are the sensitive areas and be alert if you are going to travel to these areas.
Is it dangerous to travel to a place where malaria is endemic?
People who do not have partial immunity to malaria are at higher risk of contracting the disease. This includes travelers from non-endemic countries entering areas of high transmission, as well as people from endemic countries living in areas where there is little or no transmission.
Since symptoms often do not appear until 10 to 15 days after infection, travelers may return to their home country without showing signs of illness. Clinicians in non-endemic areas may not recognize symptoms, and life-threatening delays in diagnosis and treatment may result. In addition, effective antimalarial drugs may not be registered or available in all countries.
Travelers are advised to consult a physician or their national center for disease control prior to departure to determine appropriate preventative measures.
In short, malaria health education is essential to prevent the spread of the disease, and reduce its impact on the health and economy of affected communities. Proper prevention and treatment of malaria can save lives and improve people’s quality of life. It is important that people understand how malaria is transmitted, how to prevent it, and how to recognize the symptoms in order to seek treatment immediately if necessary. That’s why we always look for the correct way so that the information reaches your fingertips; and knowing about malaria health education can help you fully protect your integrity.