Malaria is one of the most deadly disease that humans have seen in the history of mankind. It is caused by a parasite that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
Every year approx. 210 million people get infected with malaria. Out of those about 445000 people die from the disease. Most of the deceased are young children in Africa
There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans:
P. vivax (pose the greatest threat )
Malaria is an acute febrile illness. Symptoms for malaria usually appear 10-15days after the infective mosquito bite.In some people an attack usually starts with shivering and chills followed by sweating and a return to normal temp.
Other symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain and fatigue
If not treated malaria can progress to severe illness often leading to death. In children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms
1. Severe anemia
2. Respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis or cerebral malaria
3. In adults multi organ failure is also frequent.
Mosquito transmission cycle
Only the female mosquito spreads the malaria parasite. When a mosquito bites a person who already has malaria, it sucks up the person’s blood which contain the parasite . The mosquito then injects the parasite into the next person it bites. That’s how the disease is spread.
Once the parasite enter the body they travel to the liver where they multiply. They invade the RBC . The parasites get inside them, lay their eggs and multiply until the red blood cells burst .
This release more parasite into the blood stream.
It can be fatal as in most cases malaria death are related to one more serious complications including:
1. Cerebral malaria- Parasite filled blood cells block small blood vessels to the brain. It leads to swelling of brain and damage can lead to coma.
2. Breathing problem- Accumulated fluid in the lung can make it difficult to breathe
3. Organ failure- It can also cause the kidney and liver to fail. Any of these conditions can be life threatening.
4. Anemia- It damages red blood cells which result in anaemia
Mosquito are most active between dusk and dawn. Here are few good practices that should be followed to protect from mosquito bite:
- Cover the skin by wearing long sleeve clothes.
- Apply skin repellent to exposed skin, if any.
- Use a mosquito net over bed.
Treatment aims to eliminate the plasmodium parasite from the blood stream. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT) to treat uncomplicated malaria. WHO has warned that no alternatives to artemisinin are likely to become available for several years.