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Treatment for clinical malaria is sought promptly during an epidemic in a highland region of Uganda

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Early diagnosis of malaria followed by appropriate treatment can help reduce related morbidity and mortality as well as interrupt transmission. Previous studies of household responses to malaria have tended to focus on endemic areas where the burden of this disease is greatest. With the apparent increasing frequency of epidemics in African highlands, a better understanding of treatment behaviours in areas of unstable transmission may be important to future public health interventions. This study was undertaken following a serious epidemic of malaria in the highlands of south-western Uganda. Our objectives were to characterize actions taken by both adults and caretakers of children ≤5 years old during their most recent episode of self-diagnosed malaria, and to identify factors that were associated with prompt treatment at a health facility. A survey of 300 households selected in a 2-stage cluster sampling procedure produced 453 adult respondents and 133 caretakers of children ≤5 years old. We found that almost 65% of adults and 62% of children who had experienced an episode of malaria in the last year (most during the epidemic) had sought treatment from a health facility first as opposed to self-treatment. Most of these people had visited the health facility within 1┬áday of symptom onset. By the end of their malaria episode, over 87% of adults and 80% of children had visited a health facility at least once. Factors associated with prompt presentation at a health facility included severity of illness, household proximity to a health facility, and knowledge of malaria prevention methods. Our results indicate that there is an important role for the formal health care system in mitigating morbidity and mortality and reducing transmission during malaria epidemics in Uganda.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-12-01

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