Sunday, 5 May 2013

Malaria in Nairobi


Malaria is one of the major concern for people who plan to move or travel to Nairobi.

As soon as I heard about my husband’s job offer, I started my search on the Internet and read so many horror stories. Honestly, I got cold feet and even thought about not moving here. Let me mention that at that time we had a one-year-old and a five-year-old. So, I packed all the mosquito repellents on the market!

But, like in any other case, reading something about it and living in it firsthand are two very different things. So, here are the real facts:

Nairobi is located 1,795 m above sea level, which makes it almost impossible for malaria carrying mosquitos to survive (low temperatures can drop to 10°C in June/July). The cold seasonal temperature in Nairobi is thought to limit the development of the disease. But still, in some parts of Nairobi, malaria can be seen.

Is there malaria in Nairobi? In rare cases, yes, there is. It is mostly to be seen in slums where there are no sanitary systems, no wastewater drainage systems, no sewage systems, and no clean water. Especially with migration from other parts of Kenya, mosquitoes (the ones that carry malaria are called "anopheles") are able to travel in trains or via the human body. If you plan to visit or work in one of these slums, it is recommended that you use mosquito repellent on a regular basis. And if you plan to stay overnight, make sure you apply lots of repellent and cover your bed with a mosquito net and wear long sleeves and pants. And just inside info, since these anopheles are carrying malaria, they are lazy and like dark places and bite at night.

What can be done? How can you prevent malaria? I highly recommend using a mosquito net at night. There are two types on the market. There are regular nets, which you can easily find even at Ikea. Or if you'd like, you can purchase them here. And, there are also treated mosquito nets (ITN---insecticide treated net). Both types can be found in supermarkets in Nairobi. When you use an ITN, malaria carrying female anopheles do not even come to that floor! So, paying the extra penny is definitely worth it. If you are traveling to Nairobi for leisure or business purposes, mosquito nets are available in all hotel rooms, and if they are not available, you better ask for one! Besides malaria, African mosquitos are very different from the ones I've seen before! They are big and make lots of noise!!! You still need a regular bed net, even for these mosquitoes, since they can be little bothersome and noisy at nights. And if you are traveling outside of Nairobi, you must use mosquito repellents, and if you have any of the symptoms noted below, do not waste any time and see a doctor! And if possible, carry your own malaria treatment (medicines are easy to find).

Is malaria contagious? No, it is not. Even though symptoms are alike, Malaria is not like the flu. It cannot be spread by sitting next to a person who has malaria.

How soon will I feel sick if I get bitten by malaria carrying anopheles? Symptoms begin after bitten from 10 days to 4 weeks, and in some cases, within a week. If you have any of the symptoms below, do not waste any time-- see a doctor and make sure to be tested for malaria. For this diagnostic test, your blood is examined under the microscope. Remember, you will only get sick from female infective anopheles.

Where can I find mosquito repellents? There are many different types on the market. Personally, I use herbal ones, since using 'repellent with DEET' can be more harmful. Pharmacies in malls, such as Galleria, Junction, and Westgate have wide varieties of repellents. And there is a big supermarket called "Nakumatt" where you can find all that you need in one place (nets and mosquito repellents).

The good news is, living in a country with malaria causes it to be tested faster and more reliably. All hospitals are very experienced with malaria. When you go to a hospital with symptoms such as (keep in mind the symptoms also feel like a flu, so no matter what, DO NOT WAIT, get it checked) chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, sweats, and fatigue, they test you right away. And antibiotics are always available in hospitals and pharmacies. So, do not be scared, but be aware. Always do your research before you travel to any part of Africa.