Malaria-infected mosquitoes don’t discriminate. They can bite anyone. This means that malaria can affect anyone who lives in or travels to areas where there is malaria transmission. About 100 countries across the world experience malaria transmission, with the Sub-Saharan African region experiencing the highest numbers of cases and deaths.
Do you live in or plan to travel to malaria areas? Here are six important things you should know about malaria;
Malaria is a major public health problem in West Africa
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that in 2019, there were 229-million clinical cases of malaria and 409 000 people died of malaria, most of them children in Africa. The latest World Malaria Report in 2020 showed that Nigeria had the highest number of global malaria cases (27%) in 2019 and accounted for the highest number of deaths (23%), making it a major public health challenge in the country.
Malaria is transmitted all over Nigeria. About 76% of the population live in high transmission areas while 24% of the population live in low transmission areas. The transmission season can last all year round in the south and is about three months long the northern part of the country.
Malaria is not only transmitted by mosquito bites
Malaria is not contagious so you will not catch it by being in contact with someone with malaria. Most people become infected with malaria when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. However, the parasites that cause malaria affect red blood cells so you can catch malaria if you are exposed to infected blood. Here’s how;
- Blood transmissions
- From mother to unborn infant
- By sharing needles
Some people are at greater risk of malaria
Anyone can become ill with malaria but there are some groups of people who are at greater risk of severe disease. In places with high malaria rates, lack of access to preventive measures, medical care and poor awareness aggravates the problem. People most at risk are;
- Children under the age of five
- Older adults
- Travellers coming from other countries where there is no malaria
- Pregnant women who can also pass on malaria to their babies before and during birth
- People in rural areas who do not have access to information and medical care
Some immunity against malaria is not enough
People living in malaria regions like West Africa can develop partial immunity against malaria because they are exposed to it enough during their lives. Having partial immunity can lessen your symptoms if you are infected with malaria but partial immunity can wear off if you move to a place where you’re no longer regularly exposed to the parasite. Experts warn against assuming you have some immunity just because you have grown up in a malaria area. You should always take precautions against being bitten.