- You cannot have malaria without fever – High grade fever is one of the most important diagnostic criteria for malaria. Unless one has taken some fever medication like paracetamol or have partly self medicated with malaria drugs, one must have a fever to even consider malaria as a cause of their illness. This, in conjunction with other symptoms, makes one feel really terrible. Anyone coming to a health facility smiling and being their usual happy self does not have malaria.
- Headache, fever and joint pains do not equate malaria – These are symptoms that can be attributed to malaria. But, there are many other illnesses that cause the above symptoms including a cold, flu, food poisoning, urinary tract infection and many other non-infective causes. So, if you wake up with a headache, runny nose and joint pains and have not traveled to a malaria endemic zone, you are very unlikely to be suffering from malaria. Do a malaria test before buying medicines over the counter.
- Being beaten by mosquitoes does not cause malaria – Malaria is caused by exposure to a parasite (plasmodium) which is carried by mosquitoes (of the anopheles type) and injected into your blood stream when the mosquito bites you. Thus, even if you are bitten by 100 mosquitoes that do not have the parasite, you will not contract malaria. Many people buy over the counter malaria medication just on the basis of the fact that they or their child were beaten by many mosquitoes.
- There is no malaria in Nairobi – A study that looked at malaria infection in urban informal settlement in Nairobi and conducted by KEMRI and other notable institutions in 2008 declared Nairobi a malaria free zone with zero prevalence. So, if you have mosquitoes in your house in Nairobi and are beaten repeatedly and develop pimples on your body, you will not contract malaria. Yet, malaria drugs are some of the fastest selling medications over the counter in this Country even in non-malaria zones like Nairobi.
- Malaria prevalence in Kenya;
a) Endemic areas – Coastal areas and Western Kenya. Endemic areas means that these areas have malaria cases all year round and a person can get malaria if they travel to these areas at any time of the year.
b) Seasonal transmission areas – Northern Kenya and Southeastern Kenya. These areas have seasons when malaria is high and seasons when it is low. This means that one can travel to these areas repeatedly and not get infected with malaria but when the person travels there during malaria peak seasons, they can contract malaria.
- Inappropriate use of antimalarials causes resistance – One should never take antimalarial drugs without a malaria test being done to confirm suspicion. Many people wake up, feel a bit of joint pains and buy malaria drugs. The day these people are unfortunate enough to actually contract malaria, they will have one rough time treating the illness as the body is accustomed to this regular medication.
- There are two main tests for malaria;
- Blood slide for malaria – This is user dependent and can only be relied on if one is sure that the institution they have visited has staffs that are competent in preparing and reading the slide correctly.
- Malaria antigen test – This is not user dependent as it looks for antigens to malaria rather than physical detection of the parasites in blood. It is like the HIV test meaning than one will get a result that is either positive or negative.
- You can get malaria despite taking prophylaxis – This sounds ironic but the problem is that people take prophylaxis inappropriately. Prophylaxis for malaria must be started BEFORE travel to endemic zone, continued throughout the stay and continued for a few weeks after one returns from travel. It is becoming more advisable to allow for residents to travel without prophylaxis, practice barrier methods against malaria and do a test for malaria if they develop fever. But for visitors from outside the Country, they must take their prophylaxis as they tend to suffer more severe forms of malaria.
- Malaria takes time to develop – Malaria has an incubation period of at least 1 week. This means that if you went to a malaria area two days ago for one day, you are unlikely to have malaria. Seven days must have elapsed from the first day that the traveler arrived in the malaria endemic zone.
- Barrier methods for malaria – These include dressing in clothes that cover as much of one’s body parts as possible. In addition, use of mosquito repellent jelly, sprays, coils and mosquito nets is very important. Mosquitoes mostly bites at night so be more vigilant during the dark hours of the night.