Posts or Comments 01 March 2021

Monthly Archive for "April 2020"



Children &Measles &Mortality &Surveillance Bill Brieger | 30 Apr 2020

African Children and COVID-19

Until recently it was thought that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was less severe in children. Now as more cases can be studied, that prognosis is less likely to be true. The number of cases overall in Africa is still lower than the rest of the world, with 36,857 cases reported by the Africa CDC as of 29 April 2020, compared to over 3 million globally. One assumes out of this that the number of child cases would also be lower, but there is worry about other indirect effects of the pandemic on children.

Initial beliefs that the young would be less impacted by COVID-19 may have led to complacency. For example, the Atlantic reports that, “Africa will enjoy the advantage of youth. COVID-19 kills mostly the old, and Africans are relatively young, with a median age of 18.9. (The median age in the United States and China is 38.) That means, in effect, that about half of Africans who get COVID-19 will have a low risk of death.” The reality is turning out much different.

First from the medical standpoint, VOA reports that, “Doctors in Britain, Italy, Portugal and Spain are exploring a possible link between a severe inflammatory disease in children and the coronavirus. A growing number of children of various ages in several European countries have been admitted to hospitals with high fever and heart issues. Some also have suffered from gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea.” There is not enough information disaggregated by age to tell us how coronavirus is affecting children in Africa.

Secondly, UNICEF tells us that, “in any crisis, the young and the most vulnerable suffer disproportionately,” as children suffer from “collateral damage.” Lockdowns reduce access to essential services such as routine immunization, nutritional supplementation and malaria treatment and prevention programs and thus increase morbidity and mortality among children.

Nature published on 7th April that measles has currently, “killed more than 6,500 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is still spreading through the country.” Unfortunately “23 countries have suspended measles vaccination campaigns as they cope with SARS-CoV-2.”

There are groups of children that are especially vulnerable. In Kenya. “Street children are having a rough time during the curfew. Food and water are a real problem as hotels and eating places where they would normally get food have closed down. Movement is restricted,” according to the Guardian. The article goes further to share the concern that, “the virus could drive homeless children back to families where they are at risk of abuse.” Abuse of children during stressful times goes affects many confined to homes with out-of-work parents, not just street children.

We cannot afford to lose more children to direct and collateral mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads in Africa. We need to begin with better data to tell us about infection and effects on children. Nigeria has done some reporting on age.  We need to ensure that all countries collect data on children and COVID-19 and also maintain routine child survival services.

coronavirus &COVID-19 &Ebola &Elimination &iCCM &IPTi &IPTp &IRS &ITNs &Research Bill Brieger | 25 Apr 2020

Zero Malaria Starts after Lockdown?

The novel 2019 coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-COV2, is casting a heavy shadow over the 2020 World Malaria Day. People are trying to remain upbeat declaring the tagline “zero malaria starts with me,” but nothing can hide the fear that the current pandemic will both disrupt the current delivery of essential malaria preventive and treatment services, but will have longer term impacts on malaria funding and our capacity to learn new ways to reach malaria elimination goals. As we can see in the graphic to the right, accessible, lifesaving, community-based services may be especially hard hit.

Another ironic image is the indoor residual spray (IRS) team member with a face mask needed for protection from the insecticides being sprayed. When will such teams be able to go back into homes? When can household members actually pack out their belongings so that spraying can commence? When will such masks not be needed for intensive care COVID-19 case management instead?

WHO is urging “countries to move quickly to save lives from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa” because “New analysis supports the WHO call to minimize disruptions to malaria prevention and treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This will be difficult in high burden countries like Nigeria that are already on lockdown with over 1,000 coronavirus cases detected already. Modeling by WHO and partners has projected, “Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018.”

The Global Malaria Program offers guidance for tailoring malaria interventions to the present circumstances. Great concern is drawn from previous epidemic situations when observing that, “it is essential that other killer diseases, such as malaria, are not ignored. We know from the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa that a sudden increased demand on fragile health services can lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality from other diseases, including malaria. The COVID-19 pandemic could be devastating on its own – but this devastation will be substantially amplified if the response undermines the provision of life-saving services for other diseases.”

Specifically, GMP recommends that national malaria programs should ensure the following:

  • a focal point for malaria is a member of the National COVID-19 Incident Management Team.
  • continued engagement with all relevant national COVID-19 stakeholders and partners.
  • continued access to and use of recommended insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
  • continuation of planned targeted indoor residual spraying (IRS)
  • early care-seeking for fever and suspected malaria by the general population to prevent a spike in severe malaria
  • access to case management services in health facilities and communities with diagnostic confirmation through rapid diagnostic tests [RDTs]
  • treatment of confirmed malaria cases with approved protocols
  • continued delivery of planned preventive services normally provided to specific target populations (SMC, IPTi, IPTp)
  • the safety of all malaria personnel and their clients in the process of carrying out the above interventions

In editorial in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by Yanow and Good address the damaging longer term impact of the present shutdown. “The impacts of research shutdowns will be felt long after the pandemic. Many scientists study diseases that do not share the same obvious urgency as COVID-19 and yet take a shocking toll on human life. For example, malaria infects more than 200 million people and takes the lives of nearly half a million people, mostly young children, each year.1 During laboratory closures and without clinical studies, there will be no progress toward treating and preventing malaria: no progress toward new drugs, vaccines, or diagnostics.”

The case for continuing malaria services to save hundreds of thousands of lives is not difficult to make. The actual implementation during lockdowns and quarantines is a management challenge. The importance of malaria testing to provide patients with appropriate care for the right disease is crucial. The question is whether in resource strapped endemic countries these decisions and management arrangements can be made in a timely fashion and for the long term whether the next generation of research can proceed with much needed new medicines and technologies.

Elimination &Surveillance &Vector Control Bill Brieger | 17 Apr 2020

A look at Botswana from WHO’s E-2020 country brief

Botswana is one of a handful of countries in Southern Africa that are nearing malaria elimination targets. The information below is extracted from WHO’s Elimination 2020 program site and shared verbatim.

“Botswana has made impressive progress in reducing indigenous malaria transmission, from a reported 71 000 cases in 2000 to 533 in 2018. Despite significant variation from year to year – with a higher number of malaria cases in 2014, 2016 and 2017 – the country has continued to report an overall decline in both cases and deaths since 2000.

“Challenges faced by Botswana’s national malaria control programme include the perception, in some communities, that malaria is a low priority disease, which can lead to people not protecting themselves with insecticide-treated nets and other WHO-recommended prevention measures. Added to this, some residents do not accept vector control activities such as insecticide spraying inside homes. However, the government’s commitment to eliminate malaria remains strong.

“WHO lists the following Successes in Botswana and the accompanying graph confirms the overall drop, despite some increases:

  • 69% decrease in number of reported malaria cases following outbreaks in 2014, 2016 and 2017;
  • all districts using District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2) for real-time malaria reporting
  • mapping of all malaria cases at household level and stratification at village level
  • adoption of the Community Acting Together to Eliminate Malaria (CATTEM) approach
    enhanced community monitoring in malarious districts by malaria surveillance agents”

Hopefully with geographical and epidemiological targeting and attention to early warnings about climate change, Botswana can be among the next group of countries achieving malaria elimination.