Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease of humans and other animals caused by a parasite. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. This disease is uncommon in temperate climates, but is still prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. It begins with a bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito, called “malaria vectors” which bite mainly between dusk and dawn. It is recorded that malaria kills an estimated 1 million people each year worldwide.
Sign and Symptoms
A person infected with malaria may experience recurrent attacks with the following signs and symptoms:
- Moderate to severe shaking chills
- Profuse sweating and drop in body temperature
Signs and symptoms usually appear between 10 and 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There are some types of malarial parasites, however, that can lie dormant in your body for months or even years.
You are at risk in developing malaria when you live in or visit in tropical areas where the disease is common. Almost half of the world’s population may be at risk. Specific population risk groups include:
- Young children as their immune system has not been fully developed yet
- Pregnant women and their fetus
- People with HIV/AIDS
- Travelers visiting new areas from non-endemic places
- Immigrants from endemic areas
Malaria may lead to complications of the respiratory system like Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) or Pulmonary Edema making it difficult to breathe. People who also have pre-existing HIV who are infected with malaria have a high risk of mortality. Renal failure may also develop. Brain may also be affected when parasite-filled blood cells block small blood vessels to your brain resulting to comatose. The liver may also enlarge and the spleen may rupture. Severe anemia may also develop as malaria causes damage to red blood cells. All these may result to death.
For those who have acquired malaria, key interventions should be done to control the disease. This includes:
- Prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies, which reduces the ability of the parasite to develop resistance to a drug
- Antimalarials including amodiaquine, lumefantrine, mefloquine or sulfadoxine
In cases with suspected malaria, it must first be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing before giving treatment. Treatment is also done based upon the symptoms present.
To prevent the disease, one must eliminate mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites, especially those malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Prevention of malaria can be cost-effective than treatment of the disease. Primarily, vector control is the main solution to reduce malaria transmission in the community.
- Use mosquito nets, especially those treated with insecticide
- Apply insect repellents
- Spray insecticides at home
- Drain standing water
- Cover your skin
- Always clean the surrounding to avoid mosquitoes
For those who are travelling, malaria can be prevented by suppressing the blood stage of malaria infections thus preventing malaria disease. Antimalarial medicines may be given by your doctor a few months ahead of time which are intended for preventive treatment. There is still no vaccine approved for the prevention of malaria. Researchers and scientist are still developing a safe and effective vaccine for malaria.
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