Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Malaria

Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes primarily bite between dusk and dawn, and are also referred to as ‘malaria vectors’. There are 4 types of human malaria, with Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax being the most common, and Plasmodium falciparum the most dangerous (WHO, 2010).

 

Who is at risk?

Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with the following populations being the most at risk: young children, who have not yet developed an immunity to the most severe forms of the disease; non- and semi-immune pregnant women, as the disease causes a higher rate of miscarriage and a lower birth rate; people infected with HIV or AIDS; individuals with compromised immune systems;  international travellers from non-endemic areas, due to a lack of immunity; and immigrants from endemic areas living in non-endemic areas, who are returning to their home countries for a visit ( WHO, 2010).

 

How is malaria transmitted?

While an infection with the Plasmodium parasite actually causes malarial disease, there is another important species involved in malaria transmission, namely the Anopheles mosquito. This is the only type of mosquito known to transmit Plasmodium to humans, through a bite. The malaria life cycle has 3 components:

1.         The Anopheles mosquito must be present and in contact with humans. Within the malaria mosquito the Plasmodium parasite is able to complete the ‘invertebrate host’ part of its life cycle.

2.         Humans must be present and in contact with malaria mosquitoes in order for the Plasmodium parasite to complete the ‘vertebrate host’ part of its life cycle within the human body.

3.         Malaria parasites must be present (Clinaero, inc., 2006-2010).

 

Diagnosis

Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria are essential to reduce disease, prevent death and contribute to reducing malaria transmission. In making a malaria diagnosis, your doctor will require information about your child’s medical history, recent travel history, current symptoms, current medications or medical conditions, as well as performing a physical examination. The test that is typically used to diagnose malaria is known as a blood smear. Prior to being examined under the microscope, the blood specimen is stained to give the parasites a distinctive appearance. The blood is then spread out on the microscope slide, hence the name ‘blood smear’, and if the malaria parasite is present, it can be identified in the patient’s blood (Clinaero, inc., 2006-2010).

 

Symptoms

The symptoms of malaria usually develop 10-14 days after an infective mosquito bite, because they only appear once the parasite has infected the red blood cells. If prophylactic drugs were taken, this period may be prolonged. Therefore, if your child becomes ill several weeks after returning from a malaria area, it is critical to mention this to your doctor.

 

Initially malaria may present with flu-like symptoms, possibly including:

·         High fever alternating with shivering

·         Headache

·         Sweating

·         Fatigue

·         Myalgia or pain in the back and limbs

·         Abdominal pain

·         Diarrhoea

·         Loss of appetite

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Coughing

 

In young children, malaria may present with:

·         Fever

·         Headache

·         Poor feeding

·         Abdominal pain

·         Vomiting

·         Diarrhoea

·         Lethargy and drowsiness with increasing pallor

 

Celebral malaria is potentially fatal and manifests as repeated convulsions and coma. Falciparum malaria may result in serious complications, involving the kidneys, liver, brain and blood (Collins, 2003; Guidelines for the Prevention of Malaria in South Africa; Leary, 1990).

 

Treatment

The key to malaria treatment is early identification and prompt medical intervention. If treated early, malaria is a curable disease. This also helps to prevent the more serious complications of malaria from arising. Treatment involves the use of anti-malaria medication. The type of antimalarial drug used will depend on several factors: the type of the infecting parasite, the area in which transmission occurred, the severity of symptoms, the patient’s age, if the patient has any other illnesses or medical conditions, if the patient takes any other medication, pregnancy, or the presence of drug allergies. In endemic areas, cases of uncomplicated malaria do not usually require hospital admission; however more serious cases do need treatment in hospital. In non-endemic areas, affected persons should remain in hospital to receive their treatment. Most malaria medications can be taken orally, but those with severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria, or patients who are unable to take medication by mouth, can be given treatment intravenously. Uncomplicated malaria that is treated quickly usually results in a person feeling better within a few days or up to 2 weeks, depending on the severity of symptoms (Clinaero, inc., 2006-2010; Collins, 2003).

 

Protection

·                When travelling to an area where malaria is endemic, it is critical that you and your family take antimalarial drugs, known as chemoprophylactics, that suppress the blood stage of malaria infection, therefore preventing malaria disease.

·                In South Africa, some of the high-risk malaria areas include the lowveld area of Mpumalanga, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, and further north, in areas where the Anopheles mosquito is present.

·                Non-drug measures that reduce contact with mosquitoes have their advantages because they are less toxic than the antimalaria medications and their effectiveness doesn’t depend on the drug sensitivity of the parasite.

·                Ensure that there is gauze on all windows and doors.

·                Insecticide sprays are effective, long-lasting and widely available. Be sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions because their solutions are toxic.

·                Most mosquito repellents are particularly useful during outdoor activities, but should not be applied to the face, eyes, eyelids or broken skin. Reapplication every 4-6 hours is required. In the case of infants or young children, apply these repellents sparingly and avoid their hands, as they often come into contact with their mouths or eyes.

·                Citronella is the most effective, alternative natural option but it needs to be applied every 40-90 minutes for continuing efficacy.

·                Wear protective clothing (light, with long sleeves), to minimise exposed skin.

·                Ceiling fans and air-conditioning help disturb mosquito activity.

·                Because of the nocturnal feeding habits of mosquitoes, do not allow your children to play outside after sunset (Guidelines for the Prevention of Malaria in South Africa; Leary, 1990; WHO, 2010).