- Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
- A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.
- There were 247 million cases of malaria in 2006, causing nearly one million deaths, mostly among African children.
- Malaria is preventable and curable.
- Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries.
- Travelers from malaria-free areas to disease "hot spots" are especially vulnerable to the disease.
- Malaria takes an economic toll - cutting economic growth rates by as much as 1.3% in countries with high disease rates.
The common first symptoms – fever, headache, chills and vomiting – usually appear 10 to 15 days after a person became infected. If not treated promptly with effective medicines, malaria can cause severe illness and is often fatal.
Who is at risk?
Most cerebral cases and related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected. In 2006, malaria was present in 109 countries and territories.
Early treatment of malaria will shorten its duration, prevent complications and avoid a majority of deaths. Because of its considerable drag on health in low-income countries, malaria disease management is an essential part of global health development. Treatment aims to cure patients of the disease rather than to diminish the number of parasites carried by an infected person.
- prompt treatment for all episodes of disease (within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms if possible);
- routine use of insecticide-treated nets for night-time prevention of mosquito bites
- for pregnant women in highly endemic areas, preventive doses of sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine (IPT/SP) to periodically clear the placenta of parasites;
- if feasible indoor residual spraying to kill mosquitoes that rest on the walls and roofs inside the houses.
WHO guidelines for the treatment of malaria
Prevention focuses on reducing the transmission of the disease by controlling the malaria-transmitting mosquito. Two main interventions for vector control are:
- use of mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide (LN), a very cost-effective method;
- Indoor residual spraying (IRS) of insecticides.
These core interventions can be locally complemented by other mosquito vector control methods (for example, reducing standing water habitats where insects breed, among other approaches).
With the first appearances of drug resistance even with the newer generation ACT’s, another problem becomes also imminent: the increase in mosquito control efforts in many areas, foster the development of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors. This should be regarded as a very important issue, therefore:
- Search for effective strategies for management of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes to prolong the useful life of available insecticides.
- High priority must be given to the search for new modes of action for malaria control interventions.
WHO Expert Committee on Malaria, 20th report 1998
Beyond the human toll, malaria wreaks significant economic havoc in high-rate areas, decreasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by as much as 1.3% in countries with high levels of transmission. Over the long-term, these aggregated annual losses have resulted in substantial differences in GDP between countries with and without malaria (particularly in Africa).
Malaria’s health costs include both personal and public expenditures on prevention and treatment. In some heavy-burden countries, the disease accounts for:
- up to 40% of public health expenditures,
- 30% to 50% of inpatient hospital admissions,
- up to 60% of outpatient health clinic visits.
Malaria disproportionately affects poor people who cannot afford treatment or have limited access to health care, and traps families and communities in a downward spiral of poverty.
The targets of the aid community led by the UN Secretary General are a substantial and sustained reduction in the burden of malaria in the near and mid-term, with the milestones as listed below:
- Achieve universal coverage with LN for all populations at risk with locally appropriate interventions for prevention and case management by 2010;
- Reduce global malaria cases from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and by 75% in 2015;
- Reduce global malaria deaths from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and to near zero preventable deaths in 2015;
- Eliminate malaria in 8-10 countries by 2015 and afterwards in all countries in the pre-elimination phase today; and
- lIn the long term, eradicate malaria world-wide by reducing the global incidence to zero through progressive elimination in countries.
Source: WHO Global Malaria Action Plan PDF (449 KB)
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