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Fight against malaria: Nigeria, others at the mercy of new mosquito species

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The discovery of a mosquito species known as “Steve” (scientifically named Anopheles stephensi) puts Nigeria and other African nations at risk of a spike in malaria incidence.

The World Health Organisation reports that in 2012, Djibouti saw the first sighting of the “Steve” mosquito, which is native to South Asia.

Since its discovery, malaria has rapidly spread over the nation. Seven African nations have been affected by the mosquito epidemic: Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Unlike other mosquitoes that often lay their eggs in rivers and marshes, the “Steve” mosquito is an urban breeder that prefers dry surroundings.

Its low tolerance for moisture and propensity to grow on water accumulated in tyres, gutters, and containers make it especially difficult to handle.

Concerns have been raised by this new species’ strange habits, which include biting outside during the day and showing resistance to common insecticides.

The Head of WHO’s Tropical Diseases Division in Africa, Dr. Dorothy Achu, underlined “Steve’s” threat in urban areas and questioned the effectiveness of the present remedies, which mostly centre on indoor therapies.

She underlined that finding and eliminating this potent mosquito from unfavourable habitats was a challenge that hindered efforts to lessen its influence on public health.

Health professionals are struggling with the pressing need for creative solutions to handle this new challenge to malaria control in Africa as the “Steve” mosquito spreads.

Many African countries continue to carry out comprehensive malaria-eradication programmes that use a combination of preventative measures, diagnostic tools, and therapeutic treatments.

Cape Verde is the most recent of three African countries to be declared malaria-free.

According to Wikipedia, humans and other vertebrates are susceptible to malaria, an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes.

Symptoms of human malaria, according to Wikipedia, usually consist of fever, exhaustion, nausea, and headaches.

“In extreme situations, it may result in death, coma, convulsions, or jaundice. Ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected Anopheles mosquito, symptoms typically start to appear. Patients may experience disease recurrences months later if they are not appropriately managed.

“Reinfection typically results in less severe symptoms in people who have recently recovered from an infection. If the person is not exposed to malaria for months or years, this partial resistance goes away,” Wikipedia wrote.

The Severe Malaria Observatory organisation, on its websites, states that malaria is transmitted throughout Nigeria, with 97% of the population at risk of malaria.

It wrote, “The duration of the transmission season ranges from year-round transmission in the south to three months or less in the north. Plasmodium falciparum is the predominant malaria species. The primary vector across most of the country is Anopheles (An.) gambiae s.s., accounting for 67.1% of all the An. gambiae s.s. collected, with An. funestus as a secondary vector in some areas of Nigeria.

“According to the 2021 World Malaria Report, Nigeria had the highest number of global malaria cases (26.6 % of global malaria cases) and the highest number of deaths (31 % of global malaria deaths) in 2021. The country accounted for an estimated 54 % of malaria cases in West Africa in 2021.

“Case numbers decreased 2% between 2020 and 2021, from 312.7 to 306 per 1000 of the population at risk. Deaths increased 3.5%, from 0.94 to 0.91 per 1000 of the population at risk during that same period.

“Microscopy data from the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) show that the prevalence of malaria parasitaemia in children under five years of age is 23% (a decrease from 27% in 2015 and 42% in 2010), although there are significant regional, rural-urban, and socioeconomic differences: prevalence ranges from 16% in the South and South East Zones to 34% in the North West Zone. In rural populations, prevalence is 2.4 times that in urban populations (31% vs. 13%).”

A consultant medical parasitologist, Prof. Wellington Oyibo, in an interview with Health-Panorama, lamented the burden of malaria globally, saying the ailment remains a public health challenge.

Oyibo, who is also the head of the ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, Lagos, said malaria morbidity and mortality had remained high over the years.

“Uncomplicated malaria cases can progress quickly to complicated and that could be fatal; critical attention is required to address this.

“Severe malaria-related death is as traumatic as COVID-19 and children die early when supportive management is not accessible,’’ he said.

Oyibo urged the Federal Government to support indigenous manufacturers of malaria commodities.

Also, Akinjide Adeosun, the CEO of St. Rachael’s Pharmacy in Nigeria, stated that malaria might be completely eradicated in Nigeria if sufficient funding was allocated for both treatment and eradication efforts.

Additionally, he stated that health professionals have to be organised to combat malaria in key regions.

“This can be done by consistently budgeting huge sums of money for malaria treatment and elimination programmes, and maintaining domestic investments for malaria, just like El-Salvador,’’ Adeosun said.

In his words, a call to action was desperately needed to end a malaria epidemic that was killing more Nigerians every day than COVID-19 despite being avoidable and treatable.

Quoting a World Health Organisation statistics, Adeosun said malaria afflicted 60, 959, 012 Nigerians and 95, 418 souls were lost in 2019.

“Hospital visits were low during the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus on malaria was neglected, and it is still being neglected.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to increase the awareness of the dangers of malaria.

“It is my considered opinion that malaria can be eradicated in Nigeria, just like El-Salvador, Paraguay, Argentina, Algeria, Mauritius, Lesotho and Seychelles,’’ he said.

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