Severe anemia in young children after high and low malaria transmission seasons in the Kassena-Nankana district of northern Ghana.

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  • 1 Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Legon.

Malaria and anemia accounted for 41% and 18% respectively of hospital deaths in the Kassena-Nankana district of northern Ghana during 1996. We measured hemoglobin (Hb), malaria prevalence, and anthropometric indices of 6--24-month-old infants and young children randomly selected from this community at the end of the high (May-October, n = 347) and low (November-April, n = 286) malaria transmission seasons. High transmission season is characterized by rainfall (the equivalent of 800-900 mm/yr.), while the remaining months receive less than 50 mm/yr. Severe anemia, defined as Hb < 6.0 g/dL, was 22.1% at the end of the high transmission season compared to 1.4% at the end of the low transmission season (Odds Ratio [OR] = 20.1; 95% CI: 7.1-55.3). Parasitemia was 71% and 54.3% at these time points (OR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.5-2.9). Nutritional anemia appeared to have little impact upon this seasonal difference since anthropometric indices were comparable. Although the relative contributions of other causes of severe anemia were not assessed, repeated malaria infections may be a primary determinant of severe anemia among infants and young children during the high transmission season.