Plinius

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PL 69/10: Facts, action and malaria

Filed under: Uganda — plinius @ 7:16 am

Information saves lives.

But information is useless if people do not act. The case of malaria demonstrates the need to combine knowledge and action.

Malaria is the most serious public health problem in Uganda.  For most people, malaria leads to days or weeks of illness rather than death. Their loss is economical, since their capacity to work is reduced.

In a survey of ten thousand households in 2002/2003, nearly thirty percent of the population reported that they had been sick during the 30 days preceding the survey. Malaria or fever was the main cause. So malaria is a heavy burden on the economy.

Loss of life years

When we study the impact of disease, it is best to look at the number of years people lose through illness or early death. A baby who dies from malaria, loses fifty or sixty life years. A sixty year old woman, loses five or ten or fifteen years.

Children under five and pregnant women are the groups most likely to die from malaria. Such deaths imply the loss of many life years. A Burden of Disease study from 1995 indicated that fiften percent of life years lost to premature death were due to malaria.

[The reported percentage – 28 percent – sounds extremely high. ]

Treatment

Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitos. When a mosquito that carries the parasite bites a person, the parasite enters the blood and starts multiplying. The body reacts by high fever and other symptoms.

Malaria is very common in most of the country. When a person gets a high fever, it is usually  considered to be  malaria. Most families in  Uganda believe in home-treatmnent of malaria. The most common first-line treatment is traditional medicine. A second approach is  home-treatment with chloroquine.

In the past, chloroquine used to be effective in most cases. But after decades of use – and misuse, strains of parasites that resist chloroquine have developed.  Now public health authorities recommend ACR – or artemisin based combination therapy, which is based on a combination of drugs.

Prevention

Malaria can best be prevented by using an insecticide-treated mosquito-net. Public health authorities recommend that pregnant women and children under five should always sleep under such nets.

A new type of bed-netting is now available on the market. It contains insecticides that remain active for four years rather than just half a year, which was the case in the past.

Resources

  • National communication strategy for malaria control in  Uganda 2005-2010. The Republic of Uganda. Minsitry of Health. Malaria Control Programme.
  • Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Uganda National Household Survey 2002/2003. Report on the socio-economic survey. Entebbe: Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2003.
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