Malaria is a grave condition resulting from the bite of an infected mosquito.
It makes a person develops chills and high fever.
The majority of malaria cases are in Africa, South America, Central America, and Southern Asia.
This article would discuss its causes, mode of transmission, and symptoms.
In addition, it would also discuss who are susceptible to it, how it is diagnosed, and how it is treated.
The Causes of Malaria
Malaria basically develops because of a bite from an infected mosquito.
However, there are some cases wherein a person acquired malaria after coming into contact with blood that is infected.
Cases such as these are extremely rare though.
Malaria is not a viral disease.
It is not possible to acquire it just by being near an individual who is malaria-positive.
How Malaria Is Transmitted
A person can get malaria if he or she is bitten by an infected female mosquito belonging to the Anopheles species.
Once this person catches the parasites, these parasites multiply in the bloodstream and liver of that individual.
In addition, if an uninfected mosquito bites a person who has already been infected, that mosquito can become infected too.
If this happens, the mosquito will transmit the parasites to any person it bites.
There are also instances when malaria has been transmitted to an uninfected person through the transfusion of infected blood.
Because of this, it is not recommended for individuals who have gone to places where malaria is common to donate blood for a while.
It is also possible for a pregnant mother infected with malaria to pass on the illness to the fetus.
The places where malaria most commonly occurs include the following:
- Western Pacific Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- South America
- Central America
If you have noticed, these places are mostly of tropical climate.
More than 600,000 individuals who live in these locations die because of malaria.
Several thousands of foreign travelers who visit these locations and other locations where there is malaria also get infected.
In fact, these travelers usually get seriously ill because they have never been exposed to the infection in the past.
Thus, they have weak resistance to it.
Who Can Get Malaria?
In the year 2010, roughly 655,000 individuals died and approximately 216,000,000 individuals became severely ill because of Malaria.
This is based on a report from the World Health Organization.
However, the majority of deaths and illnesses resulting from malaria took place in Africa.
Even though the majority of malaria instances are due to the bite of a mosquito from the P. falciparum or P. vivax species, almost every death resulting from malaria is because of the P. falciparum species.
It is possible that individuals who travel to Africa have greater chances of acquiring malaria.
This is because they usually camp or stay outdoor in rural locations where mosquitoes are very common.
However, even if a person travels to locations where malaria is very common such as South America and Southeast Asia, if he or she stays in resorts or urban areas where there are no or fewer mosquitoes, the risk of contracting malaria infection is minimized substantially.
The Symptoms of Malaria
The signs and symptoms of malaria are usually similar to those of flu, including muscle and joint pains, chills, and a high fever.
These symptoms have a tendency to appear and disappear every now and then.
There are some kinds of malaria though that can lead to complications such as damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, or the heart.
Such malaria types can be fatal.
Symptoms usually start to appear in those infected a couple of weeks after the start of the infection.
The incubation period and the severity and frequency of symptoms differ depending on several factors.
These factors include the mosquito species that caused the infection and the host factors.
The following are some of malaria’s clinical symptoms:
- A fit of sweats, chills, and fever (depending on the causative species, this could be every 48-72 hours)
- Night chills and shaking
- A headache (this is observed in almost all malaria-infected persons)
The following are some of the symptoms of malaria that are less common:
Most malaria-infected persons do not have any particular physical symptoms, but there is a possibility of splenomegaly.
The following are some of the indicators of extreme malaria:
- Renal failure (this is usually not permanent and can still be reversed)
- Abnormalities in the respiratory system including malarial hyperpneic syndrome symptoms (such as unusually deep breathing, using accessory muscles to breathe in and out, retraction of the chest, and alar flaring), pulmonary edema, respiratory distress, and metabolic acidosis.
- Severe anemia
- Cerebral malaria (this may sometimes be accompanied by a coma)
How Can Malaria Be Prevented?
There exists no vaccine that can make a person immune to malaria infection.
The best way to prevent getting malaria is to prevent getting bitten by a mosquito.
Always put on insect repellents or use citronella sprays and lotions.
Reapply after four hours.
If you are traveling to a place where mosquitoes are common, or a place where malaria is known to occur, aside from insect repellents, you should take preventative anti-malaria medication.
Remember that mosquitoes breed in dirty surroundings usually with stagnant water.
So keep your surroundings clean, and always change the water in your vases and any other part of the house where there is water.
How Is Malaria Treated?
In general, malaria can be treated with medications.
However, some parasites are stronger than others and may develop resistance to the medication.
In addition, some of them may not be killed simply because they are in your liver.
The earlier malaria gets diagnosed and treated, the better chances of making a fast and complete recovery.
If you have reason to suspect that you might have malaria, or if you have recently traveled to a place where malaria is known to occur, do not hesitate to get yourself tested right away.