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Culture & Disease: Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa Essay

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Updated: Feb 1st, 2022

Introduction

Sherman (1998) claims that malaria is an infectious ailment caused by “microscopic organisms called plasmodium” (p. 3). In humans, several species of micro-organisms are responsible for causing malaria. These in include p.ovale, p.falciparum, p.vivax, p.malariae, and a zoonotic species p. knowlesi from apes (Sherman, 1998). Upon gaining access into the human bloodstream, the parasites invade the liver where they increase exponentially. From the liver, some parasites get into the bloodstream where they rupture the red blood cells thus destroying them. The destruction of red blood cells causes fever and headaches, and extreme progression can lead to loss of consciousness or even loss of life.

Accordingly, Sherman (1998) claims that those infected with malaria show clinical symptoms like “flu, chills, fever, headaches and painful muscle.” For some patients, the evident symptoms include “diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice and coughing” (p.371). In severe cases, cerebral malaria might develop in association with complications such as kidney and liver complications, shock, bleeding, and complications in the central nervous problems. In some instances, malaria can occur again even after one has received malaria treatment. This can be attributed to partial clearance of the parasites. Secondly, malaria can recur when reinfection occurs. Thirdly, a relapse can occur due to the re-emergence of the blood-stage parasites from the parasites in the liver.

Environmental Factors that Make the Sub-Saharan Population Vulnerable to Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in tropical regions around the equator. Malaria is common in Sub-Sahara Africa. Infection with the parasite is almost universal in a Sub-Saharan population. Malaria commonly affects those with poorly developed immunity, especially young children.

Factors that Make the Sub-Saharan Population Vulnerable Malaria

The Sub-Saharan population is highly vulnerable because of the tropical climatic characteristic that is prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Temperature is an important factor in the development of microorganisms and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes develop well at temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade and cease to multiply at 16 degrees centigrade (Sherman, 1998). Poverty and lack of information about the disease: Most of the residents of Sub-Saharan Africa live below the poverty line. Additionally, the population is not properly informed about malaria prevention, control, and treatment measures.

Modes for Malaria Transmission

The most common mode of spreading malaria is through the infliction of an infective mosquito. The female Anopheles mosquito is an important organism in the distribution of the plasmodium, a parasite credited with causing malaria. Other documented mechanisms of transmitting malaria include:

  • Receiving infected blood – This is highly infective areas prone to malaria.
  • From mother to the unborn fetus – This occurs where the placenta is highly infested with malaria-causing microorganisms.
  • Sharing needles – This happens especially with drug users who utilize a one needle stick in the administration of their drugs.

Methods Used to Control the Spread of Malaria

The main strategy employed in the control of malaria emphasizes the elimination of malaria-transmitting vectors; that is mosquitos and also, there is a need to renew the malaria treatment. This usually involves promoting human protection, examining, supervising, and integrating advanced research in health care and other established disease control and research facilities. More so, malaria control measures revolve around the monitoring of key living organisms together with their surrounding. Firstly, human is indispensable organism in the malaria transmission cycle and act as the host, with the capability of taking the disease from one place to another. Secondly, mosquitoes have a greater chance of taking the disease to far distances because of their flying abilities. With this in mind, it is advisable to their eggs and larvae that are in situ. Müller (2011) claims that mosquitos are high “resistance to conventional insecticides; thus, it is paramount to develop highly effective vaccines and drugs” (p. 117). On the other hand, it is fundamental to undertake measures at a personal level. These include using bed-nets treated with the right insecticide.

Alternative Methods Used by the Sub-Saharan Population for Treating Malaria

Yes, apart from drugs and vaccines, Africans have alternative methods for fighting malaria there is the use of medicinal plants to cure malaria (Müller, 2011). Others seek the services of witch doctors because of the belief that malaria is caused by witchcraft.

Effect of Alternate Treatments

The use of the aforementioned alternatives for treating malaria has both positive and negative effects on the disease. Some herbs have been effective in eliminating the parasite from the infected individuals. However, seeking the services of witch doctors has not been effective in either controlling or treating malaria.

The Role of Social and/or Cultural Influences on Malaria for the Sub-Saharan Population

In African societies, there are socio-cultural practices surrounding malaria in general. Previous research indicates that some societies associate malaria with the common fever that has several mild symptoms and is “within tolerable limits, which cause a few disruptions to their lives” (Jones & Williams, 2004).

Effects of the Sub-Saharan Population Beliefs and Values on Malaria Treatment

Some values and beliefs endorsed by African societies have critical consequences on the nature and the spread of the ailment. Previous research also reveals that “social vulnerability is different from one society to another (Jones & Williams, 2004). Furthermore, in some communities, they might have the will to transform their perspectives about the disease, but might not have the capability to respond.” As far as behavior is concerned, this might mean having restricted information about the right remedy, limited treatment alternatives, or even limited control strategies. On the other hand, those who believe that malaria is caused by witchcraft might not visit health centers for treatment with advanced drugs (Müller, 2011).

Community Health Promotion and Wellness Strategies that Help Prevent Malaria in the Sub-Saharan Population

Education is one of the fundamental community health promotion and wellness strategies. Here, people are enlightened on how to recognize whether an individual has the disease. Early recognition aids in early treatment, hence eradication of the disease. Equipping the community with such information, the importance of eliminating stationary waters and clearing bushes, and using bed-nets treated with the right insecticides, helps in reducing malaria risk factors.

Conclusion

Malaria is an infectious ailment caused by microscopic organisms called plasmodium and transmitted by a female Anopheles mosquito. Mosquitoes transmit the parasites from one infected person to another through bites. Malaria is common in Sub-Sahara Africa because of factors like; the tropical climatic conditions that are friendly to the breeding of mosquitos; the high poverty levels have led to a lack of proper medication, and the poor education means that society is less informed on the control and treatment measures. Furthermore, in some African societies, there are socio-cultural practices surrounding malaria in general. Here, society associates malaria with the common fever that has several mild symptoms. Despite these challenges, malaria control measures revolve around the monitoring of key living organisms (humans and mosquitos), together with their surroundings. In addition to this, the use of modern drugs and vaccines is emphasized for treating the disease.

References

Jones, C. O. & Williams, H. A. (2004). THE SOCIAL BURDEN OF MALARIA: WHAT ARE WE MEASURING? The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and hygiene, 71 (2), 156-161. Web.

Müller, O. (2011). Malaria in Africa: Challenges for Control and Elimination in the 21st Century. Bern: Lang.

Sherman, I. W. (1998). Malaria: Parasite Biology, Pathogenesis and Protection (3rd ed.). New York: ASM Press.

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