Malawi has one of the highest numbers of Malaria cases, ranking fifth in the Eastern and Southern Africa region. We’ve put together all the information you need to know about Malaria in Malawi. Be prepared for your next adventure with these handy tips and advice and ensure safe travels in the Warm Heart of Africa.
The World Health Organisation describes Malaria as a life threatening disease. It is an infectious disease that is caused by mosquitoes which affects humans and other animals.
How is Malaria transmitted?
Malaria is transmitted through a bite by a female Anopheles mosquito that has been infected through getting blood from an already infected person. The moment a mosquito bites an infected person, some blood containing microscopic malaria parasites is taken. After a week when this mosquito bites another person, these parasites mix with its saliva and is therefore injected into the person being bitten.
Malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant and even sharing of sharp objects such as syringes or needles seeing that this parasite is found in the red blood cells of a person who has been bitten.
A mother can also pass malaria to her unborn child during or before she delivers. This is congenital malaria.
Area’s in Malawi that are at high risk of Malaria
Malaria risk is very high in all areas of Malawi throughout the year although Mosquitos are said to be lesser in colder regions and higher altitudes. There is always a risk and it always best to take precaution. The highest risk areas are around hotter and wetter regions such as Shire River valley, Lakeshore and the central plain areas with lowest risk areas being the highlands of Rumphi, Mzimba and Chitipa as well as Kirk range.
Symptoms and Treatment
Some symptoms of Malaria include shaking, fever, profuse sweating, abdominal pains, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, muscle pains, headaches among others.
Malaria can be treated through prescription drugs given at a hospital and local pharmacy. A simple prick test can help determine if you have contracted the infection and should be tested for immediately after recognising multiple symptoms. Treatment is usually dependent on the type of malaria parasite, age, how severe your symptoms are as well as whether you are pregnant.
The treatment generally takes about two weeks, in some case if caught earlier a few days. However, some individuals could experience a relapse.
Malaria is commonly treated using Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and Chloroquine phosphate.
ACT s are usually the first in line treatment and they exist in different types for example artemether-lumefantrine (Coartem) and artesunate-amodiaquine. An ACT is usually a combination of two or more drugs that work differently against the parasite.
Chloroquine phosphate provides a great alternative for parasites that are sensitive to the drug. The only disadvantage that currently exists in most countries is that the parasites responsible for malaria are resistant to chloroquine so its use is not as effective.
Other antimalaria drugs include Mefloquine, Primaquine phosphate, Quinine sulfate with doxycycline and a combination of atovaquone with proguanil.
The disease should be treated in its early stages before it becomes life threatening.
Dangers and effects
Severe Malaria could cause renal failure, severe anemia, jaundice, kidney failure, mental confusion, seizures and even death in some cases.
What can be done to prevent Malaria
While there is treatment for Malaria, prevention is actually better as it saves you the trouble and expenses involved in treatment. There are many ways in which you can prevent malaria which include:
- Awareness. Find out if you are at risk of getting the disease
- Stay in areas that are well screened at night
- Sleep under a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticides
- Use mosquito repellent on your skin in sleeping areas
- Get antimalarial drugs in the right dosage
- Wear long sleeve shirts and go for trousers during early evenings and even at night which is when mosquitoes bite most
How to prepare against malaria when travelling in Malawi
Since Malawi has a very high number of Malaria cases, you can protect yourself in the following ways in case it is your next destination:
- In the event that you will be travelling to Malawi, it is advisable to take prescription medication from a doctor, this medication should be taken before, during and even after your trip in order to avoid getting the disease. When considering malaria prophylaxis, the clinicians should put into consideration the itinerary, length of stay in Malawi, the cost of the drugs, any allergies and one’s medical history
- You should also carry with you a treated mosquito net because a lot of areas in Malawi are malaria risk areas
- Ensure that you will have clean and safe food as your eating habits can help protect you from the risk and effects of the disease
- Carry with you some insect repellants and ensure you will be staying at well lit and air conditioned places that help keep the mosquitoes away.
- Carry bottled water that is sealed or treated water
- Stay away from water bodies and only swim in designated swimming pools while in Malawi
Organisations involved in Malaria awareness and working to help communities survive Malaria
There are different organizations in Malawi that are dedicated to helping communities survive Malaria. Examples include:
- Majete Integrated Malaria Project which is a large Malaria control programme that also does research on the disease in the Majete Wildlife Reserve area.
- The Hunger Project which has been working with the Majete Malaria Project in several villages to conduct workshops and train community health workers on Malaria transmission, prevention and treatment.
- UNICEF is involved in the sale and distribution of low-cost anti-malaria mosquito nets
- The World Health Organization (WHO) was also involved in the launch of the first malaria vaccine in Malawi in order to save lives from Malaria
- The government of Malawi has also developed a strategic plan to enhance national malaria control.
With this information, we hope you will be properly prepared. Rest assured knowing that by following simple steps and basic precautions you can have a fun filled safe adventure in Malawi!