Rural population of federal capital vulnerable to malaria risk: Health experts

ISLAMABAD, Oct 15 (APP):Health experts on Tuesday said that large population of rural areas of federal capital are vulnerable to the malaria risk and advised them to take special preventive measures to prevent from the disease.

According to them, authorities concerned should ensure effective surveillance to prevent from increasing malaria cases in the federal capital particularly in malaria-endemic areas.
They said that vulnerable people are predominantly living in mosquito-prone areas but they have limited knowledge on how to prevent from this disease.

A public health expert Dr Arif Azad said that many adults are exposed to infectious mosquitoes in their work including policemen, workers at parks, greenbelts and gardens, sanitary workers besides rural populations of federal capital with having limited access to health facilities and prevention programmes.

These populations not only have limited access to prevention, diagnostic testing, and treatment services, but their undiagnosed and untreated parasitaemia may also contribute to transmission to surrounding populations in receptive areas, he said.

He said the disease can be eradicated by taking steady steps to fully control over it with allocation of funds and political will to move forward towards complete eradication. He said that it is high time to ensure availability of free testing services for malaria at all public hospitals for general public besides focus on research work to cover treatment aspects.

He said that health officials should try to reduce the incidence of malaria by distributing bed nets to help protect people from mosquito bites as they sleep. Medical expert Dr Sharif Astori from Federal Government Polyclinic (FGPC) hospital said that malaria is a disease caused by a parasite which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

He said that people who have malaria usually feel very sick, with a high fever and shaking chills. While the disease is uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is still common in tropical and subtropical countries.

He said that many malaria parasites are now resistant to the most common drugs used to treat the disease. Dr Wasim Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said that a malaria infection is generally characterized by the signs and symptoms including fever, chills, headache, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain and fatigue.

He added other signs and symptoms may include sweating, chest or abdominal pain and cough. He said that Malaria attack usually starts with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever, sweating and return to normal temperature.

He said that Malaria signs and symptoms typically begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, some types of malaria parasites can lie dormant in body for up to a year.
He advised to consult to doctor if experience a fever while living in or after traveling to a high-risk malaria region.

According to WHO, less than one percent of global funding for investment in health research and development is devoted to the enhancement of means to fight malaria.

The disease affected about 219 million people in 2017 and killed around 435,000, mostly infants and children in the poorest regions of Africa, figures that have varied very little since 2016.

There are several medications available to treat and control malaria and effective insecticides to fight mosquitoes, its main transmitter, but in the opinion of experts this is not enough to completely eradicate the disease.

In this regard, WHO insists on the need to develop new research and drugs to combat transmitting agents, prevent and treat the disease. When contacted an official from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said that steps are being taken to minimize the appearance and spread of dengue and malaria in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

He said that preparation plan has been made for hospitals focusing on preventive care, diagnostic facilities, and availability of beds along with treatment protocol.
He said that the Islamabad health team was working in close coordination with Rawalpindi Health officials for prevention and control of malaria.

He said that as per plan actions being taken included identifying and destroying mosquito breeding sites, covering open drinking water containers, removal of tyres, shoppers, plastic bottles and other wastes from roofs, draining water from room coolers and trays of refrigerators, formation of six teams of sanitary inspectors and malaria supervisors and formation of 136 teams of lady health workers.

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