Malaria: Expert urges change of socio-cultural, environmental attitudes

A Malaria expert, Prof Wellington Oyibo, on Monday called for a change of socio-cultural and environmental  attitudes toward malaria as it would help Nigeria to attain its 2020 Pre-elimination phase goal.

Oyibo, Head, ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that though Nigeria was making progress, more efforts were neededs.

He spoke ahead of the 2017 World Malaria Day which comes up annually on April 25.

World Malaria Day is commemorated on every April 25. It recognises global efforts to control malaria. The theme for this year’s celebration is “End Malaria for Good’’.

Oyibo said: “We are surely making progress but this progress will demand more efforts.

“When you are thinking about reaching a target, be it pre-elimination, elimination or eradication, the efforts must be concerted and out of the box; everyone has to be involved.

“Science is good, but the socio-cultural way we look at malaria disease makes it not to look important and so, there is urgent need to change that.

“There is need for information; there has to be continuous massive awareness on the dynamics, causes and prevention of malaria,’’ he told NAN.

Oyibo added: “There is need to also debunk certain myths on the causes of malaria; for example, some people feel that they will get malaria if they stay under the sun.

“Some also believe that excessive consumption of palm-oil or some types of fruits can cause malaria; many also feel that any fever is malaria fever; all these have to be changed.

“Malaria is established to have the highest index of suspicion for all cases of fever, especially through clinical diagnosis.

“So, it is a public health disease because in Nigeria it is still under control; we still have the goal to see how to reduce the disease burden remarkably.’’

He said that to keep malaria in check, the environment also had to be put in check; places that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes should be cleared.

“They include trees, collection of waters in uncovered containers, stagnant waters in gutters, empty cans and discarded tyres.

“Others include broken blocks, littered unroofed buildings and construction places should be dislodge and cleared,’’ Oyibo said.

According to him, Indoor-Residual Spraying (IRS) is also an effective recommended strategy to eliminate malaria and which the Federal Government strongly recommends.

The malaria expert said that Nigeria had a plan to achieve pre-elimination phase of malaria by 2020.

“This plan is from 2014 to 2020; this means that by 2020, we should have gone beyond control and getting close to elimination stage.

“The plan includes the various measures that have to be put in place such as procurement, supplies and logistics, materials, commodities like drugs, long lasting Insecticide treated nets, diagnostics, storage, logistics, deployment and personnel.

“It also includes monitoring and evaluation, preventive strategies, effective kit management, diagnostics and treatment as well as vector and environmental management,’’ he said.

Oyibo urged people to always demand for test before any malaria treatment.

“People must know that when they have fever, they should demand for a test because that fever can be headache, cancer, measles or anything.

“Everything in your body that makes you have symptoms of malaria could be a big disease without knowing, that is why people must realise this and run appropriate tests,’’ he said.

Oyibo urged the media, governmental agencies, NGOs, public and private companies, as well as individuals to partner experts to engage and communicate well and help drive malaria out.

NAN reports that malaria is caused by a multi-staged parasite which is transmitted by the bite of infected female anopheles mosquitoes.

It affects millions of people and kills more than 500,000 people throughout the world every year.

It is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death among children and pregnant women in Africa.

The main species of malaria that effect man are Plasmodium falciparum, P vivax, Plasmodium Ovale and Plasmodium malariae.

The most prevalent species of malaria parasites in Nigeria is Plasmodium falciparum, which is greater than 95 per cent and it is responsible for the most severe forms of the disease.

The other types found in the country, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae, play a minor role.