In Uganda, every eighth child who dies before the age of five, dies as a result of malaria, according to WHO statistics. Malaria is the third most frequent cause of death in under five year olds equal with premature birth. In this section members will find valuable information on malaria, interventions and policy. Select from the tab to access publications or case studies on malaria.
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How Malaria Works
Malaria infection begins with a bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito causes infection by injecting sporozoites, alongside saliva, when taking a blood meal. First, the sporozoites enter the bloodstream and migrate to the liver. Here, they multiply into merozoites, rupture the liver cells and return to the bloodstream. The merozoites then infect red blood cells, where they develop into ring forms, trophozoites and schizonts that in turn produce further merozoites. Sexual forms are also produced, which are called gametocytes. If a fertilised mosquito bites an infected person, gametocytes are taken up with the blood. These develop into new sporozoites inside the mosquito. Another person gets infected when the mosquito takes its next blood meal.
Only female mosquitoes feed on blood; male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, and thus do not transmit the disease. Female mosquitos prefer to feed at night. Therefore the risk of transmission is highest between dusk and dawn.
Malaria symptoms appear seven days or more (usually 10–15 days) after the infective mosquito bite. Common symptoms may be mild and difficult to recognize and can include the following:
If not treated within 24 hours, malaria can progress to severe illness often leading to death. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. WHO recommends testing for malaria using parasite-based diagnostic testing before commencing treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
How to protect yourself from Malaria
Preventing mosquito bites represents the first line of defence against malaria. You can protect yourself from mosquito bites in multiple ways:
- Sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) every night. Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are a type of ITN in public health programs.
- Indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides is a powerful way to rapidly reduce malaria transmission. Its full potential is realized when at least 80% of houses in targeted areas are sprayed.
- Cover your skin with clothes when outside in the evenings or use personal insect repellent to protect exposed skin.
Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria but are more suitable for travellers. It may be used as intermittent preventive treatment for high risk people such as pregnant women and infants living in high-transmission areas.