By Cornelia Olabisi Thompson
The malaria parasite is deadly, and Sierra Leone is highly afflicted by it. According to statistics, about 2,240,000 outpatient visits yearly are due to malaria. Approximately 1,000,000 are children under five years of age. The most vulnerable groups affected by this killer disease are pregnant women and children under five, who constitute 4.4% and 17.7% of the total population.
The malaria parasite, transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, is called plasmodium and remains one of the world's leading killer diseases. An estimated 228 million cases and over 400,000 malaria-related deaths were recorded in 2018 globally. The severity of the infection depends on the specie of plasmodium. Malaria is spread by some insect bites and transfusion of infected blood. Malaria is not a virus or bacteria but a parasite that kills if treatment is not readily available or the parasites are resistant to drugs given. The infection can cause anaemia, hypoglycaemia or cerebral malaria. Capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked and can lead to coma, lifelong learning disabilities or even death.
The signs and symptoms of malaria begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito, depending on the specific parasite that infects you. The primary malaria symptoms are flu like and include; a high temperature, hot and shivery, vomiting, muscle pains, diarrhoea, and generally feeling unwell. These symptoms are usually mild and sometimes tricky to identify as malaria. Some other severe symptoms are breathing problem and organ failure.
However, you can prevent malaria by taking anti-malaria drugs prescribed by a medical caregiver. Other ways of preventing malaria are; using treated mosquito nets, insect repellent, and generally keeping our environments clean. In 2019 Algeria was certified as malaria-free by WHO after an interrupted indigenous transmission of the disease for at least three consecutive years.
In collaboration with the World Health Organisation [WHO], Sierra Leone has committed to reducing malaria infection in Sierra Leone by 40%. Thus, the encouragement and engagement of monthly cleaning exercise, provision of health care services, and sensitization to ensure preventive measures are followed.