The Kenya Medical Research Institute has discovered a new mosquito that poses a serious health threat to residents. The Anopheles stephensi is a carrier of a malaria superbug that can thrive in rural and urban locations. It was discovered in Marsabit County, Northern Kenya. It has also been recently detected in Kisumu. If left unchecked, it can undo the progress made in treating malaria.
Five parasite species cause malaria, but Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common. P. falciparum is the one found in Africa. Infection appears as fever, chills, and headaches in the first two weeks. If left untreated, it can lead to death.
This mosquito carries both P. falciparum and P. vivax. It’s also highly adaptable. Beforehand, this mosquito species was only found in South East Asia and the Middle East. It has also been detected in Djibouti (2012), Ethiopia and Sudan (2016), Somalia (2019), and Nigeria (2020).
How is this malaria different?
The Anopheles stephensi mosquito can thrive in urban areas. The known malaria vectors in Kenya predominantly thrive in rural areas. It can breed in jerry cans, tyres, cisterns, or water reservoirs. Usually, malaria mosquitoes only breed in streams, pools, rice fields, or water-logged tyre tracks. They need access to soil, suitable temperatures, rainfall, and unpolluted breeding areas. Why Nairobi mosquitoes don’t transmit malaria
The mosquito was discovered by the Division of National Malaria Program along with KEMRI in a routine nationwide surveillance.
Due to how transmissible it is, it increases the risk of malaria spreading across the country. Kenya records at least 3.5 million malaria cases, with about 11,000 deaths.
What can be done to prevent more malaria infections?
Malaria is highly treatable. But this new strain may be drug-resistant to current medications to treat malaria. In this case, prevention may be the best policy. KEMRI makes the following recommendations for people to prevent any infections.
1. Community Level
Get rid of all containers that have stagnant water. If you need to store water, ensure it’s properly sealed to deny the mosquitoes a place to breed. Safely dispose of items that can store rainwater, such as abandoned tyres, broken bottles, or old shoes.
Purchase larvicides to treat stagnant bodies of water like swimming pools or dams. Larvicides are pesticides that destroy the larvae before they become adult mosquitoes. They’re environmentally friendly and family and pet-safe. They come in sprays, tablets, or briquettes.
More civil awareness on how to manage mosquito breeding. Community engagement on how to manage mosquito breeding grounds helps reduce mosquito populations. Various charities, NGOs, and government organizations also provide treated mosquito nets to families in areas infested with mosquitoes. Only 49% of households have at least one treated net, and 29% have one net for every two people. The majority of these homes received their nets through mass distribution campaigns.
People who need to be outdoors must dress to cover their necks, arms, and legs. Use insect repellents. Houses built in such areas should also have window and door screens.
According to the World Health Organization here is how to prevent Malaria.
- Vector control inventions are the main approach to preventing malaria and reducing transmission.
Use insecticide-treated nets which prevent mosquito bites and also kill mosquitoes as they try to feed.
Indoor residual spraying is the application of insecticide on surfaces where mosquitos like to rest.
2. Chemopreventive therapies and chemoprophylaxis. These were designed to treat patients already infected with malaria but some antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent the disease. Current WHO-recommended malaria chemopreventive therapies for people living in endemic areas include intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants and seasonal malaria chemoprevention for children under 5 years of age. Chemoprophylaxis drugs are also given to travellers before entering an area where malaria is endemic and can be highly effective when combined with insecticide-treated nets.
2. County and National Level
Institutions need to increase personnel for better surveillance of mosquitoes. The county and national governments need more outreach programs to educate even more people about malaria awareness. County governments should invest in spraying which they used to do in the past in counties like Nairobi.
Since October 2021, WHO has recommended the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine for children living in areas with a high prevalence. The vaccine reduces P. falciparum transmission and reduces the risk of death.
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