Malaria outbreak claims 200

HARARE A malaria outbreak has claimed nearly 200 lives since the beginning of the year, prompting Zimbabwes Health Ministry to institute a probe to determine the cause of the unusual trend.

The UN said 183 succumbed to the deadly malarial bug between January and June, raising fears of another health crisis reminiscent to a 2008 deadly cholera epidemic that killed more than 4 000 people. By 30 June 2010 a cumulative 117 038 cases of malaria and 183 deaths had been reported through the National Health Information System in an outbreak that started in January 2010 with a CFR (case fatality rate) of 0.16, the world body said.

Some of the hardest hit areas are Mashonaland Wests Karoi, Kadoma, Makonde, Zvimba, Chegutu and Kariba districts where health officials have declared malaria outbreaks because rising numbers of patients visiting clinics and hospitals for treatment. Malaria is a serious health threat in Zimbabwe, often competing with HIV/AIDS for attention from the meagre government resources allocated to the sector.

After HIV/AIDS, it is the biggest killer of children under five in Zimbabwe. The estimated one million cases of malaria each year in Zimbabwe are also a serious threat to pregnant women and newborns, the leading cause of work-absence due to illness and a severe brake on economic growth.

Because there is no single way of preventing malaria, mosquitoes are increasingly becoming resistant to existing drugs. An effective vaccine is considered years away and the most effective way to reduce malaria is prevention through use of insecticide-treated nets.

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