Spotlight on Malaria in India
Date Posted: Jun 15 2015

Welcome to the first in our “Spotlight on…” series where we will be discussing more about some of the most prominent healthcare issues facing the Hospital For Hope and the community of Jharkhand that it serves.

Malaria in Jharkhand

For many of us, malaria is something we think about only when we travel, something we concern ourselves with for a few weeks in the year if we’re visiting tropical or subtropical areas. For the people of Jharkhand, malaria is a very different matter.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 75% of South East Asia’s malaria cases occur in India. Of those cases – 80% are reported from areas where just 20% of the population live, in India’s most rural communities.

Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the rural community of Jharkhand, which Hospital for Hope serves. In the 1980’s, malaria had been eliminated from this area but it has returned and today, malaria is endemic throughout the region. Before the hospital, some residents had to spend over a day’s salary to travel to the nearest hospital by bus, getting there took time and during the monsoon season that time increased significantly. Even then, patients would arrive unsure if they’d receive treatment as the facility often worked to capacity. Luckily, since its opening in July 2013, the Hospital for Hope has been able to change that and give medical support to this 100,000 strong community.

What is Malaria

Malaria is caused by a small number of species of Plasmodium parasites which infect the female Anopheles mosquito. The disease can only be contracted by humans via the bite of a mosquito carrying the parasite – malaria cannot be spread from person to person. At a certain point in the parasite’s life cycle within the mosquito, it is found in the host’s salivary gland – if the mosquito bites a human during this time, the parasite can move across into the person via the mosquito’s saliva.

Those most at risk are the very young – who have little or no immunity – and pregnant women. Pregnant women have an increased susceptibility to some types of malaria and an infection during this time has been linked to low birth weights of babies. This in turn directly impacts upon their baby’s chance of survival.

Malaria Symptoms & Treatment

Malaria is a deadly disease but with the right education and treatment, it is both preventable and treatable.

Symptoms typically appear 10-15 days after the infecting mosquito bite and include fever, chills and headaches. If not treated quickly (ideally within the first 24 hours), these symptoms can worsen and the malaria can become ‘severe’ and can lead to kidney failure and death.

Time is one of the most critical factors when treating a patient who has malaria. If treated early with the right prescription medications, cases can be prevented from becoming severe – having these treatments available within the community is vital. If appropriate treatment is given, infected patients can be completely cured of the parasite and, therefore, the disease.

Not only does early intervention in cases help to reduce the severity of the infection for that patient, it also helps to reduce disease transmission throughout the community. Mosquitos acquire the parasite by biting and feeding on a person who is already infected. If people with malaria can be treated quickly and effectively, there is less opportunity for mosquitos in the area to feed from them during their infection and acquire the parasite. Less mosquitos carrying the parasite means less people getting infected.

How you can help

Hospital for Hope aims to tackle malaria, alongside many other diseases in this area, through provision of treatment and education outreach. You can help us to help the people of Jharkhand fight malaria by donating to Hospital for Hope. Every single donation is appreciated and together, we are providing access to efficient, local healthcare to 100,000 people. When dealing with malaria, that can be a life saver.

 

Sources:

Center for Disease Control

WHO country office for India