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Take precautions to stay healthy during the winter

Sleep under treated mosquito nets.

THE importance of continuing the fight against malaria cannot be overemphasised as malaria  can be life threatening, especially for infants, the elderly and those with low levels of immunity.

Malaria is characterised by fever, shivering, chills, generally feeling unwell, headache and sweats. It can present as a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness. It is caused by different species of the Plasmodium parasite, passed on by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Malaria is commonest in some of the hottest parts of the country, particularly in rural areas.

 However, cases of malaria have been diagnosed in urban areas far removed from such areas, including Harare, when there is history of travel to malaria regions.

In very rare cases in non-malaria areas, the infected person has not recently visited areas considered to be particularly prone to malaria or even recently visited any rural area.

Yesterday was World Malaria Day. It has been commemorated on April 25 every year since 2007. The day was established to highlight the progress made and the challenges that persist in the fight against malaria.

It offers an opportunity for showcasing accomplishments, exchanging expertise and reaffirming commitments to creative solutions and persistent work.

This year’s theme is ‘Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world’. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), progress in recent years in reducing malaria has ground to a standstill.

The organisation says not only does malaria continue to directly endanger health and cost lives, it also perpetuates a vicious cycle of inequity.


Malarial parasites are carried by the female Anopheles mosquito, which tends to be active at dusk and early evening. When an infected mosquito bites you, it transfers parasitesinto your bloodstream.

After six to 16 days, the parasites return to the bloodstream to invade and multiply inside red blood cells until they burst. The released parasites then invade fresh red blood cells and the destruction continues.

The incubation period or the time between the mosquito bite and the onset of symptoms ranges from eight to 30 days, depending on the parasite species. Other less common modes of transmission include blood transfusion, sharing needles or syringes and congenital infection.

In some cases, women who are pregnant and have been diagnosed with malaria can transfer the infection to their children before or during birth.


The most common symptoms of malaria include a slow rising fever that escalates to a rapid temperature rising and falling, headache, nausea, chills, shivering, excessive sweating, diarrhoea, generally feeling unwell and anaemia.

These symptoms can lead to further symptoms and complications that include jaundice, clotting defects, rupture of the spleen, haemolytic anaemia, shock, kidney failure, liver failure and pulmonary oedema.


Malaria is usually diagnosed with a blood test that screens for the presence of malaria parasites.

If you experience symptoms of malaria, seek prompt medical treatment, even if you took all the precautions you could against mosquito bites and used anti-malarial medications.

Jaundice, pallor and enlargement of the liver and spleen may be found during a physical examination.


It is important to start treating malaria as soon as possible. Your doctor may prescribe medication to kill the malaria parasite. In most cases, urgent hospital assessment and management is recommended.

Some parasites are resistant to malaria drugs so the particular medication used depends on the species of parasite and any associated medication resistance.

Some drugs are given in combination with other drugs. The type of parasite will determine what type of medication you take and for how long you should take it.

Certain types of malaria parasite can live in your body for an extended period and reactivate at a later date causing a relapse of the infection. If you are found to have one of these types of malaria parasites you are likely to be given a second medicine to prevent a relapse in the future.


When in malarial areas you must take precautions against mosquito bites. You can start by avoiding outdoor activity around dusk and dawn. These are the times when mosquitoes are most active.

Wear loose, long, light-coloured clothing.Use mosquito repellents on exposed skin and clothing. Do not wear perfumes, colognes or aftershave.

Make use of insect killing sprays, mosquito coils and plug-in vaporising devices indoors.if windows do not have fly-screens. If you live in malarial areas, treat clothing, mosquito nets, tents, sleeping bags and other fabrics with an insect repellent regularly.

If you plan on living temporarily in or travelling to an area where malaria is common, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what medicine you should take to prevent malaria. You will need to take the drug before, during and after your stay.

Medication can greatly reduce the chances of getting malaria. However, resent studies have shown that some ofthe medication is becoming increasingly ineffective as the parasites develop resistance so taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites gives you  the best chance of preventing malaria.

You should also note that these drugs cannot be used for treatment if you do develop malaria despite taking them.

Pregnant women and children under the age of five years are at higher risk and are advised to avoid malarial areas. While it is relatively rare for malaria to pass from infected mother to unborn child, the disease increases the risk of miscarriage or premature labour.

In addition, treatment options for malaria in pregnant women are limited. If the mother is infected, foetal development may be affected.

The choice of anti-malaria medication depends on several factors, including your age, health and medical history. The type of malaria parasites that are found in the area you intend to visit and your intended length of stay are also contributing factors.

  • The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — igo@cimas.co.zw or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663

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