Malaria is endemic in Sierra Leone, which means that the entire population of 6.5 million people is susceptible to contracting the disease. Malaria causes more than two million outpatient visits each year, with children under the age of five accounting for fifty percent of these cases. The huge load that malaria places on the country's vulnerable demographics highlights the urgent need for comprehensive efforts to battle and alleviate the consequences of the disease.

How deadly is this disease?

The majority of deaths and illnesses in Sierra Leone are the result of communicable diseases, which constitute a serious issue in the country. Malaria emerges as the most serious threat, accounting for an incredible 38% of hospital admissions and underscoring its status as the leading cause of death. As a result of this widespread health problem, there is an urgent need for targeted medicines and effective healthcare measures to combat malaria's devastation. And for all these, Choithram Memorial Hospital is the best hospital in Sierra Leone. These policies should also protect the community's well-being and meet the urgent healthcare needs caused by this widespread disease.

Who is at risk of malaria, according to the WHO?

Some people are more vulnerable to severe malaria than others. Infants and children under the age of five, pregnant women, and HIV/AIDS patients are particularly vulnerable. Other vulnerable groups include migrants, mobile communities, and tourists who enter areas with high malaria transmission but have not developed partial immunity via long exposure to the disease or are not taking chemopreventive medications.

What are the symptoms and how is the condition diagnosed?

  • Symptoms: Malaria symptoms are typically mild and can be mistaken for ordinary diseases. They typically develop 10 to 15 days following a mosquito bite. Some people may have asymptomatic diseases in endemic areas because of partial immunity.
  • WHO Guidelines: Diagnose suspected cases of malaria as soon as possible. Within 24 hours, treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria is delayed, leading to severe sickness or perhaps death. While toddlers get cerebral malaria, respiratory discomfort, or severe anaemia, adults encounter multi-organ failure.
  • Crucial Diagnosis: Rapid diagnoses or blood smear microscopy are important parasite-detection methods. By distinguishing malaria from other feverish conditions, these tests assist medical professionals in providing prompt and accurate treatment, which is essential in avoiding serious complications.
  • The Importance of Early Detection: Early detection not only stops illness transmission but also prevents it from progressing to life-threatening stages. Prompt action preserves lives and reduces the burden on medical facilities and impacted communities.
  • Targeted Treatment: By preventing the needless use of antimalarial medications when the disease is different, an accurate diagnosis allows for targeted treatment and lowers the health risks associated with misdiagnosis.
  • Strategic Approach: In areas where malaria is endemic, it is critical to guarantee that accurate diagnostic instruments are widely accessible. This enables medical professionals to quickly diagnose and treat patients, which eventually lowers death rates and the cost of disease in communities.

How can the malaria virus be prevented?

The most effective method of malaria virus prevention is vector control interventions.The primary method for preventing malaria and reducing transmission is vector control. In malaria-endemic countries like Sierra Leone, insecticide-treated nets prevent bites while people sleep and kill mosquitoes as they feed, and indoor residual spraying, which applies an insecticide to mosquito-resting surfaces like internal walls, eaves, and ceilings, works well. An insecticide-treated net is the best vector control method for travellers. WHO lists vector control products with safety, efficacy, and quality ratings.

Is there a malaria vaccine available?

The RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) vaccine is the sole vaccine developed to date that has demonstrated a significant reduction in malaria in young children residing in areas with moderate-to-high malaria transmission. It works against the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is the most common and deadly malaria infection in Africa.

How is malaria treated?

  • Taking antimalarial medication to kill parasites and avoid disease
  • Preventing mosquito bites, especially at night
  • Sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets
  • Using bug repellent
  • Wearing long-sleeved clothing if you're going to be out late at night

How long is the treatment for malaria effective?

Malaria medication provides immediate relief from symptoms and ensures complete cure within two weeks. When left untreated, malaria episodes characterised by fever, chills, and sweating can reoccur on a regular basis for years, providing a recurring health concern. Prolonged untreated malaria exposure induces partial immunity in patients, resulting in the emergence of milder disease types over time. This frequent exposure does not cure the disease, but rather leads to milder symptoms or even asymptomatic situations. Treatment that is both timely and effective not only addresses acute symptoms but also breaks the cycle of repeating episodes, preventing the development of partial immunity and the long-term consequences associated with untreated malaria.

So we can see,

Malaria, Sierra Leone's most common and deadly disease, requires timely diagnosis, treatment, and vector control. As a result, one should seek medical assistance as quickly as possible at Choithram Memorial Hospital, one of the best private hospitals in Freetown, Sierra Leone.