Nutrition for Prevention and Control of Malaria

This November, we are observing the 2021 Malaria Awareness Month and continue promoting Malaria awareness, prevention, and control with the theme: “Reaching for Zero Malaria”.

Worldwide, Malaria is considered the world’s most important tropical parasitic disease. In the Philippines, 2,932 confirmed indigenous Malaria cases and 2 Malaria related deaths were reported as of August 2021.

An individual can get infected with the malaria parasite through an infected Anopheles mosquito that breeds in rivers and lakes and forest fringes.

It can also be transmitted through blood transfusion and mother-to-child transmission before or during birth.

Any individual with a history of travel to a malaria-endemic area is at risk of developing malaria up to 2 years or longer after leaving the area because the parasite has a tendency to stay “inactive” inside the body for years.

Symptoms may begin 9 – 14 days after infection which includes high fever, headache, chills, and shivers, nausea, and vomiting.

If left untreated, it may progress to severe symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhea, generalized convulsion, delirium, and impaired consciousness, followed by coma and possibly death.

Through early diagnosis, malaria can be treated with anti-malarial drugs which can cure and prevent transmission of the infection.

Antimalarial drugs can also be used as a preventive measure if an individual is scheduled to travel to a malaria-endemic area. Other personal protective measures include:

● Early diagnosis and treatment to prevent transmission of the parasite and to prevent severe fatal malaria

● Use of insecticide-treated nets and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets

● Indoor residual spraying (IRS)

● Wearing light-colored clothing, which covers most of the body since dark colors attract mosquitoes

● Using topical insect repellents or lotions with DEET at 35 % concentration

● Using insect spray with pyrethrum in living areas

● Use of permethrin insecticide as a repellant spray for clothing

Nutrition for Malaria prevention and treatment

Aside from mosquito control, strengthening the individual’s natural defense against infection is also important to prevent severe and fatal malaria especially in high-risk groups such as children and pregnant women.

It is also associated with maternal anemia, fetal loss, small for gestational age, and preterm births according to the WHO.

Moreover, studies on vitamin A or zinc supplementation show that these nutrients can help reduce malaria symptoms when combined with proper medical treatment.

Here are some foods to boost our immunity against diseases such as malaria:

1. Citrus fruits such as dalanghita, kalamansi, ponkan, lemon, orange, and pomelo are rich in Vitamin C which boosts the production of white blood cells that fight off infections.

2. Camote or sweet potato, squash, papaya, carrots as well as green leafy vegetables are rich in beta carotene which converts to vitamin A, a vital nutrient for a strong immune system.

3. Garlic, ginger, and turmeric have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which also help boost immunity.

4. Spinach, broccoli, nuts, and peppers are high in vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infections.

Generally, eating a balanced diet with proper daily variations can help boost our immunity against various diseases, including Malaria. (PR)