Dr Makemba Shayela Nelson
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite (plasmodium falciparum) spread to humans through the bites of a female anopheles mosquito. In our setting, malaria is more prevalent during the rainy season between January and April, particularly also because the northern part of our country receives a lot of flood water, during this said time.
Geographically, we often see a lot of malaria cases emanating from the far north and northeastern parts of Namibia, namely Zambezi, Kavango West and East, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto and part of Kunene region.
Young children and infants, older adults, pregnant women and their unborn children as well as travellers coming from areas with no malaria, are often at an increased risk of contracting malaria. Individuals infected with malaria often present with fever, chills and generalised discomfort.
They also experience headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, rapid breathing (tachypnea) and rapid heart rate (tachycardia), as well as, a cough have also been reported in people with malaria.
To ascertain the presence of malaria, one needs to take a good medical history including travel history to the said
regions, as a pointer to the index of suspicion.
A good systemic physical examination of both systems of the body is highly recommended and taking blood and sending it off for a malaria smear at the laboratory is the gold standard.
The treatment approach is informed by various factors such as the severity of the disease, age, and
whether the patient in question is pregnant or not, with that said, antimalarial medication can be issued and if the patient is very ill, they are often treated as an inpatient (admitted and managed in the hospital setting).
Oftentimes, patients are at an increased risk of developing cerebral malaria i.e. the parasite spread to the brain, resulting in seizures and comas.
The parasite can spread to the kidneys and liver, resulting in kidney and liver failure. If the spleen becomes infested with the parasite, it can result in splenic rupture and if not managed promptly, the patient can exsanguinate and die.
Anaemia and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) have also been seen as a complication in malaria patients.
Finally, if one lives in malaria-prone areas or often travels to the said areas, particularly between January and April, it is always best to take precautionary measures such as covering your skin (wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts), especially at night, applying insect repellent to the skin or spraying in on the clothes, bed sheets and curtains, as well as sleeping under a mosquito net or burning of the mosquito coils.
It is also advisable to consider the use of malaria prophylactic medications and one can approach any health facility or talk to their doctor about the use of prophylactic medication.
We caution residents to look out for
these symptoms and signs to prevent malaria. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, contact your general practitioner immediately to get the necessary attention.
* Dr Makemba Shayela Nelson
MBChB-University of KwaZulu-Natal
Director-NESHA Medical Practice