Risk Factors


               In sub-Saharan Africa, a child is dying every minute due to malaria (WHO, 2010).  Malaria is spreading quickly in the sub-Saharan region of Africa and affecting a significant portion of the population.  Mosquitoes are the vectors that transmit malaria to humans (CDC, 2010).  Mosquitoes thrive in sub-tropical and tropical climates, which is the climate most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa.  Some other risk factors include not using bed nets at night to protect from preying mosquitoes, not using insect repellent or malaria medicines because of the cost or lack of knowledge, working in the agricultural business (such as harvesting because it increases the chances of nighttime exposure to mosquitoes), and being near standing water which is a breeding ground for mosquito larvae (CDC, 2010).  The Center for Disease Control suggests raising domestic animals near the house so that they can act as an alternative source of blood meals for the mosquitoes.  It is important to use bed nets, insect repellent, and to follow all precautionary steps such as taking medicine before traveling to sub-Saharan Africa, to lower your chances of contracting malaria.

            Malaria is a disease that affects many people in sub-Saharan Africa, but some are at a higher risk compared to others.  There are certain groups of people that are the most at risk for contracting malaria due to their lack of immunity.  These groups include young children under the age of five years old and pregnant women, along with people who have HIV/AIDS and international travelers (AMREFUSA website).  Pregnant women and children under the age of five are usually the main groups targeted by malaria prevention efforts because they are at the highest risk.  In pregnant women, malaria can cause miscarriage, low birth weight, and even maternal death (WHO, 2010).  This relates to a pregnant woman’s low immunity during pregnancy, which leaves them more susceptible to contracting malaria.  Younger children are also at risk because they have not developed immunity against severe forms of the disease (WHO, 2010).  These groups of people need to be especially careful while in sub-Saharan Africa and need to follow all precautionary measures to ensure they stay malaria-free.

            On the other hand, there are also certain groups of people who are protected from malaria due to a biological advantage.  For example, people who have the sickle cell trait, and also people with other hemoglobin-related disorders such as Hemoglobin C disorder are protected from developing certain types of malaria (CDC, 2010).  It is important to note that they are only protected from certain types of malaria, not all types of malaria.  Also, people who have an acquired immunity (because of repeated attacks of malaria) can develop partial protective immunity.  These people can still be infected by the malaria parasites but they do not develop severe forms of the diseases or they will not develop symptoms (CDC, 2010).  In all cases, people should still try to follow directions for how to avoid mosquitoes to reduce the risk of being bitten.  Even if someone has a hemoglobin-related disorder or develops partial protective immunity, they should still use insect repellent and bed nets to not stand the chance of contracting malaria.  With so many people being infected in sub-Saharan Africa, many organizations have been involved in passing out protective bed nets and malaria medicine.  Efforts like these are the first step in reducing the number of cases of malaria.