In commemorating World Malaria Day which is observed on the 25th of April annually, the Paradise Private Hospital (PPH) is encouraging malaria patients to always complete their prescribed medication to prevent the infection from getting worse.
100 percent locally owned PPH, based in Port Moresby, has seen an increase of patients in the last few months especially during the wet periods.
PPH Director of Medical Services Dr Polapoi Chalau revealed malaria is a common disease in Papua New Guinea and one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity death.
Dr Chalau highlighted that statistics from Paradise Private Hospital reveal in the last few years, the most common types of infections recorded by the hospital’s outpatient are the flu, malaria and diarrhea.
For Malaria alone, there were 295 cases recorded in January this year and 373 cases in February.
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that in 2015, 212 million clinical cases of malaria occurred, and 429,000 people died of malaria.
“This shows that malaria continues to be on the rise globally. Malaria has always been an endemic in the country which means there is a lot more that needs to be done in addressing and combating malaria,” Dr Chalau said.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that infects a type of mosquito which feeds on humans. Once an infected mosquito bites a human, the parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying their red blood cells.
It is transmitted to humans through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The parasite cycle takes up to 2 weeks to develop before the patient can show symptoms of malaria.
“If you live in the city but go to the village and contract the parasite, you can return with the parasite in your bloodstream without even knowing. It will take about two weeks for the malaria parasite to mature and cause the infection,” he said.
Dr Chalau explained that people who get malaria are usually very sick with symptoms such as high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness including severe headache, body pain, nausea and diarrhoea.
“The worst case scenario can lead into further complication where patients can die from repeated vomiting and diarrhoea which results in dehydration and kidney failure. If the malaria is so severe, it affects the blood cells capacity for carrying oxygen to the body organs which can result to multi organ failure.”
The most vulnerable are children under the age of 5, pregnant mothers which can lead to premature delivery, people living with HIV, those with poor nutrition or poor health status and travellers traveling from a non-malaria area to a high risk area.
The health centres and aid posts in the districts now use rapid diagnostic test which is useful in areas where there is no high technology like the microscope.
In terms of treatment, the medication required to cure malaria in PNG is called artemether-lumerfantrine, a combination of two drugs into one tablet known as mala-1.
Dr Chalau said artemether is not recommended by the National Department of Health because of its resistance to the parasite. He said the major issue about resistance is people not completing their dose or medication.
The mosquitoes breeding times are between 5pm-7pm, 10pm – 11pm and 4am-5pm.
“During these times, if you are outdoors ensure to apply mosquito repellent or wear clothing to cover your skin. Avoid having open tins, coconut shells and tires lying around your yard that can capture water because these are common breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
Dr Chalau said that authorities must ensure all drains in the city are clean and not blocked as drains are the most likely breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“We need to avoid blocked drains as this also results in dengue fever which is a virus carried by mosquitoes as well.”
He added that malaria is now becoming a threat at low risk areas like the highlands region due to climate change.