“Rain rain, go away, come again another day, little children want to play,” Ronke and her friends chorused as they played under the rain.
After about 30 minutes of a torrential downpour, causing the kids to rush back to their houses as the rain refused to listen to their plea, the rain eventually stopped.
As is the common practice in Ronke’s house, the rainy season is not just a time to get lots of water in a small community that lacks access to water, but also an opportunity to dispose of their domestic waste. How so? According to Ronke’s family and their neighbors, the gutters and water drains are the usual sites to dump refuse whenever it rains as “the rain is meant to carry the waste away.”
A week after the downpour, Ronke’s mum became worried about the mosquitoes that seemed to have found a new home in their house. She tried to use different insecticide sprays but she couldn’t get rid of the incessant nuisances.
Next thing she knew, Ronke developed a fever and headache and had to go to the hospital. The doctor recommended a blood test for Ronke and she tested positive for the malaria parasite. The doctor explained to Ronke’s mum that a bite from a female Anopheles mosquito carrying the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is what makes people come down with malaria. He further advised her to check for stagnant water in her home and environment and ensure that all drains in her surroundings are properly covered so that no one else would get sick.
Does the story above resonate and sound familiar? Yes? It’s rainy season in Nigeria and since the rains will be with us for the next few months, we wanted to give you some information to help you and your family stay healthy.
Mosquitoes typically accompany the rains, especially in areas where there is stagnant water (water that is not running or moving). Why? Because stagnant water provides a suitable environment and conditions for female mosquitoes to breed. After the female bites and feeds on the blood of humans or other animals, she lays her eggs directly on or near water, soil, or at the base of some plants in places that may fill with water. Once her eggs are laid, the four-stage of a mosquito life cycle begins:
Egg (hatches in water) –> larva (emerges in water) –> pupa (emerges in water) –> adult (emerges from the pupal case after two days to a week). This life cycle typically takes up to two weeks, but depending on environmental conditions, it can range from 4 days to as long as a month.
Hence, you can avoid mosquitoes by getting rid of stagnant water in your environment. Once they do not have a place to breed, you are on your way to having a mosquito-free home.
How bad can a mosquito bite get? Very bad! Really bad! Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals in the world because they don’t just carry malaria, but they carry other diseases such as Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow fever. All these diseases can cause outbreaks and can kill.
The initial symptoms of malaria include:
➤Other flu-like symptoms
If not treated within 24 hours, Plasmodium falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness with these symptoms:
➤Low blood pressure
➤Blood in urine
Is it really possible to prevent malaria? How do we get rid of mosquitoes? Vector control, i.e. activities to reduce or prevent mosquitoes from biting you, is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission.
Malaria can be controlled by doing the following:
➤ Avoid mosquitoes (use long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets, apply insect repellent, and wear light-colored, long clothing to reduce the chance of bites).
➤ Ensure there is no standing water around your home and if it cannot be drained or removed, cover the water because mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.
➤ Travelers to mosquito-endemic areas can take specific drugs to prevent the disease. For pregnant women living in areas where malaria is endemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) as a preventive drug.
➤ Infants living in such areas should be given 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with SP during the first year of life at approximately 10 weeks, 14 weeks, and 9 months of age.
However, antimalarial drugs should not be used at will. Do not self-medicate! When you have a fever, headache and chills, please go to the hospital to get tested. Not every fever or headache is a symptom of malaria.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Why is it important to go to the hospital and get tested? The earlier you go and get tested and know what you have – whether it is malaria or another infectious disease – the earlier you can get treatment and feel better. Proper diagnosis leads to proper treatment and a better chance for recovery, reducing deaths.
A few effective antimalarial drugs are available but resistance to them is becoming a consistent global problem. The current WHO recommendation, particularly for Plasmodium falciparum malaria and uncomplicated cases, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), which should be prescribed by a doctor.
What Happened to Ronke?
Because she told her mother she wasn’t feeling well, her mother decided to take her to the hospital for professional help instead of self-diagnosing or self-medicating, so Ronke fully recovered. Her case of malaria was properly diagnosed and she got the right treatment. Within a week, she was back outside playing in the rain with her friends!
The next time Ronke saw trash being dumped in the community drains, she was quick to tell her friends to stop. She helped them understand that drains get blocked when they dump refuse in gutters. And apart from the fact that blocked drains would store stagnant water, which is perfect for mosquitoes, the trash also pollutes the water supply in their community, making them all susceptible to other infectious diseases like cholera.