Posted on April 29, 2014

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has taken the opportunity of World Malaria Day to highlight the dangers of malaria and the protection measures that people can take to mitigate the risk of contracting the deadly disease. With the theme “Invest in the future; defeat malaria”, this year’s World Malaria Day seeks to encourage international investment and commitment for the prevention and control of the disease.

Hussam Al Soub, HMC 1 [].jpgHMC advises residents who have plans to visit known malaria endemic countries to properly safeguard themselves against insect bites from mosquitoes, which carry diseases such as malaria. Over 600 malaria cases were reported in Qatar last year in residents that had traveled to malaria endemic countries and contracted the disease, according to HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit senior consultant Dr Hussam Al Soub“It is important for people to start thinking about safeguarding their health ahead of their travel, especially if they are visiting malaria endemic areas,” Dr Al Soub said.

“Would-be travelers can start by visiting the Travel Clinic in Messaimer Health Center for general advice, as well as taking prophylactic (preventive) medications 2 to 3 weeks before departure. There are some other medications they can take within one week of their departure.” Dr Al Soub cautioned travelers to avoid swampy and mosquito-infested areas while abroad. “People could choose to stay in elevated or mountainous regions as mosquitoes don’t thrive as much in these areas when compared to places near water. Wearing long sleeves, using mosquito repellent cream or mosquito netting can help protect against mosquito bites,” he stated.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), malaria still kills an estimated 627,000 people globally every year, many of whom are children less than five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, some 97 countries had on-going malaria transmissions, showing that the malaria epidemic is still a cause for concern the world over. The WHO claims that global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 42% globally and 49% in Africa.

Emergency Medicine Senior consultant Dr Salem Abou Salah explained the pathway of malaria management in HMC’s Emergency Department (ED) while making reference to a malaria treatment guide recently developed by Clinician Pharmacist Mohamed Sayed. “The symptoms of malaria fever are non-specific and may include: fever, sweats, chills, myalgia, headache, diarrhea, cough, jaundice and confusion,” he said. He stressed that a patient’s travel patterns are taken into account when confirming a diagnosis. “If a patient presents with high fever, which is a symptom of malaria, we will check his/her travel history, including stopovers and date of return. We will also check whether the patient had been to any of tropical or subtropical countries within the last six months,” he noted.

To determine whether a person has malaria, a test called ‘blood film’ is conducted up to three times before a person is confirmed as having malaria, Salah said. “Two types of malaria namely: plasmodium falciparum and plasmodium vivax are being diagnosed at our laboratory here and the latter is the most common of both,” he added. “The severity of the patient’s illness will determine the length of stay in the hospital, which can be from three days to one week,” Salah stated adding, “some patients with severe or complicated malaria could be admitted to short stay unit while some may require admission to medical intensive care unit.”