Experts call to prevent malaria in Nigeria

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, CNS Corespondent, Nigeria
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in April 2014) 
Medical experts have urged governments, stakeholders and communities in Nigeria to take proper measures to prevent malaria which has remained ‘a big health challenge’ in the country. The experts made this call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday, 22nd April, ahead of the World Malaria Day. The day is commemorated on April 25 in recognition of global efforts to control the disease.

Dr Nwajiobi Princewill, a Senior Resident, Microbiology and Parasitological Department, National Hospital Abuja, told NAN that about 60% of people who visited the hospital were diagnosed with malaria. Princewill also said that malaria accounted for about 30% of child mortality and that the deaths of about 30% of women who died during pregnancy had been traced to malaria.

Princewill stressed upon the importance of laboratory confirmed diagnosis and quality treatment. “Part of the challenge we are still facing dis that we are not diagnosing malaria properly and we are not diagnosing malaria properly. There are times when one has fever, it is not malaria and yet people go ahead to get treated. Then there are times when people say they have malaria and they do have malaria, but it is always good when it is also confirmed with a laboratory diagnosis.”

The microbiologist stressed the need for government and relevant agencies to ensure that only certified laboratories and laboratory scientists were permitted to carry out malaria tests. Princewill explained that it would take an experienced and patient person to use a microscope to diagnose malaria parasite properly.

“In cases where you diagnose it under the microscope, it is important that it is treated properly and being treated properly means giving the correct drug with the correct formulation (meaning it is not an adulterated drug), with the correct dose for the correct duration of time. If you take the drug for just one or two days and you think you feel better and you do not complete the medication, you have not been treated properly.”

He insisted that prevention is better than cure. “Remember that dealing with malaria alone is not just treating people who already have the disease. What about prevention--the use of mosquito nets, clearing bushes around, clearing drainage? If one looks at most of the satellite towns these important preventive measures are really not being implemented. If we just not keep treating ourselves, but have all these I believe we will have better control of malaria. ‘’

He expressed hope that Nigeria would overcome the scourge of malaria and focus on preventing more serious diseases such as cancers. Also speaking with NAN, Dr Dennis Shatima, Head of the Paediatrics Department at National Hospital, said that awareness, sustainability and political will were needed to end the scourge of malaria in the country. According to Shatima, ‘’In my medical practice, 6 out of 10 children who come to the hospital for malaria treatment are confirmed to have malaria after tests have been carried out’’.

He advised the public to refrain from taking anti -malaria drugs without a doctor’s prescription. “Taking anti- malaria drugs has more disadvantage than advantage. If you are taking anti-malaria medicines but you do not truly have malaria then it will create the serious issue of drug resistance.”

“The other issue with taking anti-malaria drugs is to take the complete dose. A lot of people, once they start feeling better, abandon the medication in between, and this also creates drug resistance. So, it is not advisable that for any slight hotness of the body you must take anti-malaria treatment and then not even take the complete dose. All this causes a lot of problems for us in the clinical side of health care.’’

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, CNS Corespondent, Nigeria
Citizen News Service - CNS
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in April 2014)