Malaria is a tropical disease that sends shivers down your spine. The shivering is one of the main symptoms of malaria.
There are millions of people who are affected with this dangerous disease every year and a million who succumb to this illness. Let us have a look at malaria and know more about this dreaded disease.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is the red blood cell infection caused by a parasite protozoa called Plasmodium. This disease was first discovered by an Italian, Dr. Francisco Torti. This disease affected tropical as well as non-tropical countries. However, it was mostly eliminated from non-tropical countries during the 20th century. Malaria spreads person to person by the bite of a female mosquito.
The mosquito bites an infected person and transfers the protozoa into the blood of a healthy person during a meal.
Types of Malaria
There are four species of Plasmodium that can cause malaria. Each species of the protozoa exhibit slightly different symptoms in the infected patient. Let us have a look at these four Plasmodium species.
The most common parasite that affects millions of people in Africa, South East Asia as well as South America is P. falciparum. It is said to be the deadliest parasite that leads to the majority of deaths.
Those infected with P. falciparum show the following signs of infection:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pain
- Enlargement of the spleen
- Back pain
- Joint aches
- Severe anemia
One needs immediate treatment for this infection or else the disease may affect the central nervous system. This may lead to complications such as convulsions, loss of consciousness as well as paralysis.
The most common species of Plasmodium found around the world is P. vivax. This parasite causes a minor illness and deaths are very rare.
Some of the symptoms caused by P. vivax are as follows:
This is a very rare species of the parasite Plasmodium. It is found in the African region. P.ovale causes symptoms similar to P.vivax. It can cause a relapse and infect the RBCs in a few months to years in a cured patient. This is because the parasite tends to live in the liver of the patient.
P.malariae causes the least number of infections worldwide. It commonly causes infections in South and Central America, Africa and South East Asia. An infection with P. malariae causes high grade fever and chills.
Causes of Malaria
Malaria is spread from an infected person to a healthy person by a bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The female Anopheles mosquito spreads the parasite during a meal through her saliva. The sporozoites then travels to through the blood towards the liver. Here, they mature and enter the bloodstream as merozites. They invade the red blood cells and continue to multiply. After about 24 to 72 hours, the cell lysis and releases more of the parasites into the blood. It is at this point, when the infected person starts showing signs of infection. Also, if a mosquito bites the person during this stage, it can pass the parasites to another healthy person.
Other modes of transmission of malaria parasite include from mother to her unborn baby, blood transfusion, organ transfusion as well as sharing infected, used needles, that is injections.
Symptoms of Malaria
Malaria symptoms are very easy to spot as they are typical of the disease. Some of these symptoms include:
- High fever
- Fall in body temperature
- Severe chills with shaking followed by episodes of fever and sweating
- Body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bloody stools
- Enlarged spleen
- Mild jaundice
Treatment for Malaria
Malaria treatment requires hospitalization, especially in case of infection by P. flaciparum. The patient is usually given chloroquine as an anti-malarial drug treatment. However, if the parasite is found to be chloroquine-resistant, other medications are advised. These medications include quinine sulfate, mefloquine, quinine, doxycycline, atovaquone, etc.
Prevention of Malaria
It is very important to protect oneself and their family from malaria. Those living in malaria prone regions, should make sure they follow certain precautions. Some of these precautions are as follows:
- Use an effective mosquito repellent cream that keeps away mosquitoes
- Wear long sleeves and cover your legs, especially at night
- Make sure windows and doors are screened to prevent entry of mosquitoes into the house
- Use a bed net while sleeping to prevent mosquito bites when sleeping
- Spray homes and surrounding areas with insecticide to kill mosquitoes
- Clear shrubs and other weeds around the house that helps mosquitoes hide.
- Do not allow stagnant water around the house to percolate as it helps breed mosquitoes
Keep in mind, malaria is one of the major causes of millions of deaths around the world. When left untreated, it could lead to many complications that include dengue, paralysis, coma and death. Keep yourself, your family and your community safe. Get rid of mosquitoes by keeping your surroundings clean. Those travelling to malaria prone areas should follow all steps required to prevent an infection. One step to prevent the disease will help keep one away from the dangers of malaria.
Written by: www.healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: February 2, 2016