Written by Adetola Ojo
One of the many disadvantages of the rainy season is the upsurge in Malaria. It is like a time of the year when dead mosquitoes arise to take revenge on the humans that killed them.
I did not feel the need to write this article until the disease caught up with me and three other members of my family at the same time last week. As they say, you won’t understand it, until it gets to you.
Malaria in Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Ministry of Health (MoH), is responsible for 60 percent of outpatient visits to health facilities; 30 percent of childhood deaths; 25 percent of deaths in children under one year; and 11 percent of maternal deaths. The disease is directly contributing to poverty, low productivity, and reduced school attendance in Nigeria.
For a country with a population of about 120 million, result show that Nigeria loses about 880,801 million naira per annum representing about 12 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Hence, the malaria burden in Nigeria is enormous and has a devastating impact on economic growth.
The presence of malaria in an area requires a combination of high human population density, high mosquito population density and high rates of transmission from humans to mosquitoes and from mosquitoes to human, hence the major reason why malaria parasites are en-masse in Nigeria.
By now we should know the symptoms of malaria but for the sake of this article, they include headache, fever, shivering, joint pain, vomiting, hemolytic anemia, jaundice, hemoglobin in the urine, retinal damage, and convulsions.
How can we prevent malaria?
Methods used to prevent malaria include medications, mosquito elimination and the prevention of bites.
Here’s where mosquito nets come to play. Mosquito nets create a protective barrier against malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night., they help keep mosquitoes away from people and significantly reduce infection rates and transmission of malaria. Nets are often treated with an insecticide designed to kill the mosquito before it has time to find a way past the net. Insecticide-treated nets are estimated to be twice as effective as untreated nets and offer greater than 70% protection compared with no net but when purchasing a mosquito net, you should still ask for the treated one as some are not treated.
Anti-malaria drugs have been known to work effectively in malaria prevention, so go to the doctor for medications even if you are well and feeling healthy, complete your dosage so as not to give malaria a chance. When temporarily visiting malaria-endemic areas, it is advised to begin taking anti-malaria medication prescribed by your doctor one to two weeks before arriving.
Before you to go to sleep, apply insecticides in your home, do not be in the room when the insecticide is still strong and close your doors and windows early in the evening to prevent mosquitoes from coming in. Remember to fumigate your house at least once in a year. In the home, cover over areas of stagnant, still water, such as water tanks that are ideal breeding grounds for the parasite and mosquito.
Every pregnant woman should take the prevention of malaria seriously as it is the major cause of stillbirths so when feeling any sign of malaria, go to the doctor immediately for treatment and avoid areas where malaria and mosquitoes are present if you are at higher risk; and remember, flu and malaria have almost the same symptoms so don’t confuse the symptoms with the flu and neglect the doctor’s visitation.
The prevention of diseases should be a major focus of any country seeking development. A friend in the United Kingdom was diagnosed with malaria and had to be quarantined for a week, she was in a confined space and visitors had to wear masks before coming in to see her, which goes to highlight how important the disease is been treated in the UK. This attitude towards the disease attracted new figures from Public Health England (PHE) on World Malaria Day showing an overall decrease of 18% in malaria infections in the UK.
This attitude towards malaria and other diseases prevention should be adopted in Nigeria as they impose great burden on the society with adverse effects on the physical, mental and social well being of the people as well as on the economic development of the nation. The rainy season is good but we all have to work around the disadvantages it brings with it like malaria.
National Emergency Management Agency, Abuja.