Late diagnosis a barrier to eliminating malaria

Kathmandu, January 17

Despite the country’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2026, cases of malaria increased in the fiscal 2016/17.

According to Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, a total of 1,128 cases of malaria were recorded across the country, while seven people died of the disease in the fiscal. Only 991 cases of malaria were recorded across the country in the previous fiscal.

Malaria cases were reported from 41 districts with Kailali recording the highest 267 patients. Likewise, 78 malaria cases were detected in Dhanusa and 75 each in Kanchanpur and Baitadi. Seasonal migration to India, unavailability of standard testing kits and late diagnosis are some of the causes for the rise in malaria cases.

Of the total malaria cases, 56 per cent were imported, as per Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, chief at Vector Borne Disease Section, EDCD. “Imported cases of malaria are a real threat. People returning from malaria endemic areas are not properly tested. Those returning from foreign countries are difficult to treat as they come along with Plasmodium falciparum, which is one of the causes of high mortality. There is no proper arrangement for screening malaria on the border,” added Dr Lal.

In addition, malaria has been seen in higher Himalayan region of the country. This has happened due to climate change, as per Dr Lal.

“Early and right diagnosis and standard treatment saves life. However this is lacking in the country. Clinicians are unaware of malaria. Undifferentiated fever is a real challenge. Many people die of cerebral malaria in the country,” said Dr Anup Bastola, consultant tropical medicine physician, Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku.

“Patients are diagnosed with malaria only after they are shifted to intensive care unit. Though we are on the verge of eliminating malaria, people are still unaware of standard tests and treatment,” added Dr Bastola.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by plasmodium parasite. It is transmitted through the bite of the infected Anopheles mosquito. The symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting and body aches.

The Ministry of Health through its National Malaria Control Programme has set ambitious vision of a malaria-free Nepal by 2026. Over the five years (2014-2018), it has aimed to consolidate the gains achieved till date in reducing the malaria burden and sustain the downward trend in malaria morbidity and mortality and maintain outbreak free status.