Malaria

Malaria is an illness caused due to infection by a pathogen that is transmitted via bites of infected mosquitoes. Malaria is characterized by repetitive episodes of fever and chills. The disease kills approximately one million people across the globe.

Malaria is not so common in regions with temperate climates. It is however widespread in subtropical and tropical parts of the world. Bed nets are freely distributed by WHO officials to guard people from mosquito bites during sleep, thereby helping decrease the frequency of malaria. Research for development of a vaccine for malaria is currently in progress.

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People who are travelling to places where malaria is prevalent need to take preventive drugs before, during, and after the excursion is over. A large percentage of malarial pathogens have developed immunity to the commonly used medications for treating this dreaded illness.

Symptoms of malaria

Infection by a malaria causing parasite typically causes repetitive attacks along with the below listed signs and symptoms:

  • Fever with high body temperatures
  • Moderate to intense shaking tremors and chills
  • Elevated sweating with a drop in the body temperature

Other symptoms associated with malaria include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

Most symptoms of malaria usually commence some weeks after getting bitten by a mosquito carrying the pathogen. It may however be noted that some kinds of malarial germs may remain inactive in the body for several months, or even some years.

Malaria can cause varied health complications which increase the risk to fatalities. Organ failure, respiratory abnormalities, cerebral malaria, low blood sugar, and severe anemia are some common complications.

Is malaria contagious?

The condition does not spread from person to person contact. You cannot get malaria from contact with an infected person. So dispel the thought that malaria can be spread by sitting next to the person infected by malaria or sharing her or his food.

Causes of malaria

Malaria is caused due to infection by a variety of microscopic pathogens which commonly get transferred via mosquito bites.

In order to better understand the cause of malaria, one needs to know the transmission cycle of the pathogen via mosquitoes.

  • An uninfected mosquito will become a carrier after feeding on an individual with malaria.
  • The malarial germs then get transmitted to the next person bitten by this infected mosquito.
  • The pathogens migrate to the liver where it can remain inactive for nearly one year.
  • The malaria parasites leave the liver after they mature and infect the red blood cells. This is the time when patients begin experiencing the symptoms of the disease.
  • When an uninfected mosquito bites this new patient during this timeframe of the cycle, then the parasites get transmitted to the mosquito. It can then pass on the infection to the next individual that it bites.

Other ways of malaria parasites transmission: The malarial pathogens tend to affect the RBCs. Hence, malaria can also spread via contact with infected blood, as in the below listed instances:

  • Via use of same needles to inject varied drugs
  • Via transfusion of infected blood
  • From the mother to the fetus

The below listed people are at greater risk to developing severe instances of malaria:

  • Expectant women as well as their unborn babies
  • People travelling from regions with no malaria
  • Infants and young children

One of the main risk factors to developing malaria is visiting or residing in regions where the illness is prevalent. There are several sub-varieties of malaria pathogens. The type that causes the most dangerous health complications generally occur in:

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  • Haiti, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands
  • The Indian subcontinent
  • African nations which lie south of the Sahara desert

Lack of sufficient knowledge, poverty, and deficient or nil access to medical care also contribute towards deaths due to malaria, throughout the world.

Certain types of malaria microorganisms, which usually cause minor forms of the illness, tend to persist for many years and cause recurrent malaria.

Nearly 90 percent of malaria fatalities occur in tropical regions of Africa which has the deadliest varieties of malarial pathogens, with children below age 5 being most vulnerable.

Waning immunity to malaria:People who live in regions with widespread malaria get exposed to the illness very often. This results in partial immunity in them, which in turn lowers the intensity of malaria signs and symptoms. It may however be noted that such limited immunity can fade away after moving to a region where the frequency of exposure to malaria pathogens becomes nil.

Treatment of malaria

The duration of treatment and the type of medications for treating malaria is dependent on the following factors:

  • Whether the patient is pregnant
  • The patient’s age
  • The intensity of accompanying symptoms
  • The kind of malaria pathogen causing the illness

Some of the common types of drugs used for treating malaria are as follows:

  • Mefloquine
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Quinine sulfate
  • Chloroquine
  • A combination of proguanil and atovaquone

It may be noted that the pathogens causing malaria undergo constant and continuous evolution developing resistance to almost all the anti-malarial medications, which in turn prompts researchers to create newer drugs formulas. For example, in many regions of the world resistance to chloroquine has made the medicine practically redundant and ineffective.

Reducing the exposure to mosquitoes and taking measures to eliminate mosquito habitats and the growth of mosquitoes are helpful in preventing the disease.

Malaria Pictures

 

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