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Clinico-epidemiological profiles & outcome of severe malaria in children under-five in the tribal area of Kalahandi, Odisha.

BACKGROUND OBJECTIVES: Severe malaria is a cause of excess mortality and morbidity in children in malaria-endemic areas where indigenous people live. Currently, available reports are all from secondary or tertiary care hospitals across India and some African countries. The objective of this study was to assess the clinical and epidemiological profiles of children under five years in two primary care health centres located in tribal-dominant Thuamul Rampur Block of Kalahandi district, Odisha. The outcome of management of severe malaria in these children was also assessed.

METHODS: A retrospective review of case records of children under five years of age diagnosed and admitted with severe malaria in two non-governmental primary care facilities between 2017 and 2022, was undertaken.

RESULTS: There was a declining trend in malaria cases documented in primary care health facilities between January 2017 and June 2022. Of the 4858 cases recorded, 242 (4.9%) had severe malaria, of whom 70.7 per cent (n=171) were children under 5 yr. The median age of the study children was 24 months (16-36). Children aged 1-2 yr had a significantly higher risk of malaria. The majority were tribals (87%), more than half the children presented with neurological manifestations (64.4%), and 49.6 per cent had respiratory manifestations, while 20.5 per cent had severe anaemia (Hb <5 g/dl). Most, 167 (97.7%) severe malaria was due to Plasmodium falciparum. Thirty-two percent of children were severely wasted (WHZ < -3 SD) and 28 per cent were moderately wasted (WHZ <-2 SD). There was no fatality among the 171 children who were managed for severe malaria in the two primary care facilities.

INTERPRETATION CONCLUSIONS: In high endemic areas severe malaria is predominantly a disease of under-five children and is caused by P. falciparum. Clinical manifestations of severe malaria in children can be varied and life-threatening. Primary health facilities can manage severe malaria successfully, thereby reducing child mortality. Effective collaboration between malaria control and nutrition intervention programmes is essential for appropriate case management.

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