When malaria affects the brain

When malaria affects the brain
When malaria affects the brain

Malaria had become so common in the Ilaje community where Chinomso grew up that he wondered if it was possible to truly stay a couple of months without suffering from the fever related to malaria. It was so common that he had never seen a neighbour actually visit the hospital or get a test. He never knew that it was the right thing to do or that there was a type of malaria that affects the brain called cerebral malaria. Until it came too close.

Although a rare form of malaria, cerebral malaria is a form of malaria that occurs when the parasite causing malaria enters the brain and leads to complications which can include coma, seizure, or death. For a seizure to be ruled as caused by cerebral malaria, medical professionals must find plasmodium falciparum (P. fal) in the brain.

Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological complication of infection with Plasmodium falciparum. With over 575,000 cases annually, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected.

On this fateful day, Chinomso who was a student of Ilogbo Junior High School in Otumara village learned that there was a difference between malaria and other illnesses and that all illnesses cannot be treated the same way. He was shocked. He remembers that he must have visited John, the popular Chemist shop in the area, at least 14 times in the last 25 days to ‘mix’ medicine for the “body pain and malaria”, “back pain and malaria”, “typhoid and malaria”, “cold, catarrh, headache and malaria”, and “neck pain, fever and malaria”.

He had lost count of his visit to help family, friends or neighbour to buy the medication but remembers that there was always malaria. So, the new knowledge from his class teacher made him think rightly that everyone cannot really be suffering from malaria but also he believed that malaria was not to be taken seriously. After all, everyone becomes well who suffers from malaria. Everyone he had gotten medicine from.

While some persons generally get better from malaria without having to get admitted. Some researchers have posited that people admitted to hospitals for malaria tend to spend more nights at the hospital and more money too. And when not treated completely, one may suffer from complications and more severe cases like seizures, comas, or death from cerebral malaria.

With a WellaHealth Plan, Ifeanyi could have accessed healthcare that covers his malaria tests and treatment at no extra cost to them. And when he had complained, he could have been diagnosed properly.

When Chinomso was 24 years old, he moved out of his house and set out to make a path for himself. He, like his elder brother, would become a trader dealing in phone accessories at the Nigerian Army Shopping Complex, Arena, Oshodi. As a family ritual, he moved to his apartment with his 13-year-old brother who was only beginning his secondary school education at the time.

Chinomso was preparing to go to his place of business on Thursday 15th of December 2022, when he was called to immediately come to Uzondu Medical Center – the only hospital in that community and privately held too. He had spent two hours that morning washing his clothes.  A tradition he had honoured since businesses resumes late in the morning every Thursday in Lagos. He was not expecting any disruption to his schedule for that day but his brother was critical.

While students marched into their classes, he was told by the teacher in charge of the assembly ground that week, Ifeanyi slumped just before he got into his classroom, crashing into classmates already excited about seeing their friends and setting for the first lesson of the day.

Ifeanyi had complained that he was feeling unwell. He was directed to go and mix “body pain” meds at John’s Chemist. Chinomso was positive that malaria was not a ‘big deal’. So, when the doctor told him that a high level of malaria was discovered on the quick tests run on his younger brother, he could not believe it.

Malaria can be treated lightly by a lot of people. It is easy to forget that Nigeria contributes 32% of global death from Malaria. In a world of nearly 241 countries!

When you feel the symptoms of malaria, you should definitely get tested and begin a treatment plan. For people on the WellaHealth Plan, this cost is covered by WellaHealth including tests and medications to manage the illness.

In an earlier post, we explained the best medication to combat malaria.

Further investigation into the cause of the seizure for Ifeanyi who had never been admitted to the hospital before, with friends and family gathered, the doctor explained that they discovered that the cause of the seizure was the presence of an asexual form of P. falciparum in the peripheral blood smear, in thick and thin blood smear films stained by Giemsa stain.

In children, coma resolution from cerebral malaria is slower.

Ifeanyi is still in the hospital…

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