Malaria – a life-threatening disease – is caused by a parasite. This parasite is transmitted to the human body through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Parasites enter the body and bloodstream of the human. It begins to infect red blood cells. It results in symptoms of malaria.
This disease is common in tropical and sub-tropical areas (Pacific regions, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia). Nearly 400 thousand people die each year due to malaria.
There are four types of malarial parasite that can infect the human. Among them, Plasmodium falciparum is the most common. It is the most dangerous type of malarial parasite that can cause the death of an individual if not treated early.
A malarial parasite can also be transmitted from mother to unborn offspring, organ transplant, blood infusion, and used syringes.
Malarial parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. When an uninfected mosquito bites a person having malaria, it gets infected. When this mosquito bites a healthy person, this person also gets infected. After entering the body, the parasite reaches the liver and remains dormant there.
After getting mature, parasites leave the liver and infect the red blood cells. The infected red blood cells bursts, and at this point, symptoms of malaria appear.
Symptoms of malaria begin to appear within a few weeks after being bitten by the infected mosquitoes. In some cases, malarial parasites enter the body and remain dormant there for up to a year.
The most common symptoms include:
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Muscle and joint pain
Your doctor will perform a physical test to diagnose the disease.
Additionally, blood tests are also ordered to identify the type of parasite and other complications. These blood tests take a few minutes to several days to complete.
If your symptoms are unclear or your physical condition is getting worst, your doctor may prescribe you additional tests. These tests are performed to identify the presence of the parasite, its type, its resistance to drugs, and other serious complications due to disease.
Treatment of malaria
Malaria can be fatal, especially if you are infected with P. falciparum.
Treatment of malaria depends upon the age, symptoms, physical condition either you are pregnant or not, and type of the parasite.
In some cases, the medication given to a patient is not enough to treat malaria because of parasite resistance to the drug. In such a situation, your doctor will prescribe you more than one drugs to treat malaria.
Most commonly chloroquine is given for malaria treatment. But the parasite has developed resistance against this drug, so it is not effective for most of the types of malarial parasites. Instead, ACTs (Artemisinin-based combination therapies) are found effective for malarial treatment where more than two drugs are combined to treat the disease.
Complications of malaria
Malaria can cause several complications, and it can be fatal. Almost 94% of malarial deaths occur in Africa. This mortality rate is higher in children under the age of 5.
Malaria can cause the following complications:
Cerebral malaria: Swelling of brain blood vessels. It can also lead to brain damage, seizures, and coma.
Pulmonary edema: Breathing problems due to fluid accumulation in lungs
Kidney, liver, or spleen failure
Low blood sugar – that even leads to a coma
How to prevent malaria?
Currently, there is no vaccine for malaria. If you live in an area or traveling to a place where malaria is common, you need to see your health care provider. Use the medications prescribed by your doctor.
You need to take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Cover your body. Wear full clothes covering your arms, legs, and feet. Use mosquito repellent to avoid mosquito bites.
Sleeping under a net will also protect you from mosquito bites at night.
If you live in a high-risk area, use insects or bug sprays to avoid mosquito bites in homes and offices.