Almost half the world’s population is currently at risk of the mosquito borne virus malaria. Despite huge efforts to reduce the number of cases and severity of the disease, it’s estimated by the WHO that there are 216 million new cases every single year – leading to at least 445,000 deaths around the world. One of the key targets the organisation has set out for the coming years is to reduce these figures using the following strategies:
More Efficient Diagnosis
It’s well known among health professionals that accurately diagnosing new cases of diagnosis is absolutely crucial if we want to provide fast and effective treatment to sufferers and better manage new cases. It’s estimated that only 10% of the 198 million new cases of malaria were detected through national screening programs.
Despite funds being allocated specifically to target diagnosing new cases as quickly as possible, the WHO has urged that countries seeing epidemics of malaria to strengthen their current policies using better surveillance, monitoring of health data as well as introducing more registration systems.
Over the coming year the WHO plans to focus much more on ensuring high quality diagnosis, either by microscopy or RDT, are available at all stages of illnesses. They hope that this will drastically improve mortality rates in patients, as well as provide better management of the disease and less incidences of drug resistance.
The increased number of cases where P. falciparum is becoming resistant to anti-malaria medicines is a massive public health concern, and The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 also includes plans closely monitor these medicines in order to make sure the most appropriate treatment options are offered to all patients.
Targeting High Risk Groups
When diagnosing new cases of malaria and providing effective treatment, special measures need to be taken to make sure high risk groups receive protection from infections. The WHO considers high risk groups to be pregnant women, children under 5, infants, those with underlying health conditions including HIV/AIDs, migrants will no immunity and travellers.
These groups are well known for having a substantially higher risk of contracting the disease and are at an increased risk of developing severe symptoms and complications. Malaria control programs should be implementing special measures to protect high risk individuals from the risk of infection, and should be taking into account their specific needs based on their circumstances.
Prevention and Treatment
Malaria can be a severe and life threatening disease, but it is preventable and treatable. From a public health point of view, reducing the number of new cases would go on to reduce the spread of the infection to others and prevent the risk of anti-malaria medications becoming resistant to medications. The most important objective of treatment programs to fully eliminate the Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria, from the patient to prevent complications from the disease.
Chronic infections can lead to other issues including malaria related anaemia, which in severe cases leads to death. It’s also recommended that prevention therapies including include intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women (IPTp), intermittent preventive treatment of infants (IPTi), and seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) are implemented to protect high risk individuals.