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Prevent malaria with insecticide treated mosquito nets, basic hygiene – Experts

By Paul Adunwoke
21 April 2019   |   4:17 am
As World Malaria Day comes up on Thursday April 25, Nigerians have been advised to protect themselves against mosquito bites by using insecticide...

As World Malaria Day comes up on Thursday April 25, Nigerians have been advised to protect themselves against mosquito bites by using insecticide treated mosquito nets, wearing clothes that cover most parts of the body, and using insect repellent on exposed skin.

The Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Malaria, Child And Maternal Mortality Eradication (MACMME) Project, an NGO, Nicolette Ndigwe, who partnered with Sterling Bank Plc. in Lagos to create awareness on malaria prevention, said the body decided to create awareness because many Nigerians do not know that malaria is a major cause of deaths.

And while it can be prevented with drugs that may not be up to N1, 000, many people do not attach much importance to it, as they often see people come down with malaria and recover from it, not knowing that malaria is actually a dangerous killer disease.

She said: “Malaria is preventable. By just observing basic hygiene standard will save a lot of lives. This is one of the communicable diseases that should be well managed, if we focus more resources, create a lot of awareness on the need for people to keep their environments clean and clear drainages to avoid stagnant water where mosquitoes live. It is something we can solve, and we should not wait to get to the point of using mosquito nets. Therefore, we really need to address prevention aspect of malaria.

“About five African countries have actually solved issues of malaria, so it is possible to get it done. Our programme to mark World Malaria Day this year is all about advocacy to get across to all stakeholders, including government, health practitioners and all Nigerians to come together and kick malaria out of the country. I would advise that everyone should get involved, because a nation that is not healthy cannot be prosperous and productive. Such a nation cannot also be safe because it creates insecurity”.

“Presently in Nigeria, health is a fundamental problem and people should rise up to motivate government to focus on the health sector. This is era of technology, and we must be able to leverage technology. Therefore, all hands should be on deck and also to partner with relevant organisations. Both government and corporate organisations should come together to give home and a better future to homeless Nigerian children”.

She said: “Statistics have shown that each year in Nigeria, an average of 300,000 children are killed by malaria. The disease is similarly responsible for 11 per cent of all maternal deaths. Data from United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) further indicates that each month, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child-bearing age, making it the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality rates in the world.

“What is disturbing is that about 75 per cent of these deaths are linked to highly preventable causes, such as basic healthcare, hygiene, homelessness and sanitation practices’.

“But why are the numbers still so high? Why are we losing lives to sicknesses and issues that as little as N1, 000 can solve? I found that most of these deaths were also fueled by poverty and a lack of awareness in the general populace.”

Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, a Senior lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician at Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), said first signs and symptoms of malaria include fever, chills and rigors, headache, loss of appetite, Nausea and vomiting, muscle pains and fatigue in uncomplicated malaria.

Akinyinka explained that the standard treatment for malaria, once diagnosed is by administering artemisinin combination therapy (ACT).

She said the difference between malaria and typhoid fever is that malaria is spread through the bite of an infected anopheles mosquito, which transmits a parasite called plasmodium spp that causes the illness. Typhoid is caused by a bacteria called salmonella typhi, which is spread through contaminated food and drinking water. Both have similar signs and symptoms and can be fatal if not treated.

She said: “The theme for World Malaria Day 2019 is ‘Zero malaria starts with me.’ It is an urgent call for action to get the global response to malaria back on track, and ownership of the challenge lies in the hands of countries most affected by malaria such as Nigeria. It is a grassroots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilise additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.

“Government can support prevention of malaria by ensuring there is good environmental sanitation to prevent breeding of mosquitoes that transmit malaria. It is also important to provide preventive tablets and mosquito nets to pregnant women, under-five children and their mothers to prevent the disease. Government must ensure that testing kits are readily available at all health facilities, so that people can get tested before treatment to prevent resistance to the current drugs for treatment.

“People should avoid mosquito bites by using insecticide treated nets and house netting. At any sign/symptom of malaria, they should visit the nearest health centre for consultation and testing. They should also avoid self-medication and visit their doctors regularly for medical tests and screening, as this would go a long way in prevention of malaria and other communicable diseases.”