Malaria is a disease that is commonly transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease is caused by a parasite that is transmitted into the human body through the mosquito bite. Recurrent episodes of fever and chill are a common symptom of malaria, which kills more than 1 million people annually.
Causes and Complications
Parasites transmitted to the human body start to multiply in red blood cells. Symptoms of malaria generally appear 8 to 10 days after the infection, though the time period varies from person to person.
If left untreated, malaria can be fatal. Death may occur due to any of the following complications:
- Cerebral Malaria: a condition that damages the brain and may even cause a coma
- Respiratory Problems: fluid accumulated in the lungs makes it difficult to breathe
- Organ Failure: malaria can cause kidney and liver failure.
- Low Blood Sugar: low blood sugar caused by malaria can cause death
Treatment of malaria is determined by three key factors: the species of the infecting parasite; the patient’s clinical situation, for instance, age or pregnancy; and drug susceptibility. The region from which the infection was acquired helps to determine drug susceptibility. Malaria acquired from parasites of certain geographic locations are resistant to certain treatments. The correct drugs are administered by an expert who is familiar with malaria treatment protocols.
Oral medication is used to treat mild malaria. Severe malaria, often characterized by a coma or impaired consciousness, loss of blood, renal failure, respiratory problems, and jaundice, requires treatment at a health care center.
Chloroquine is the most common drug used for treating malaria. A few species of malaria parasites are chloroquine-resistant and require alternative treatment. Specialized labs can also test the patient’s parasites for resistance to chloroquine and determine the correct treatment protocol.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Malaria is most commonly found in tropical areas, such as the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. Individuals with higher risk of the disease include unborn children, infants, young children, pregnant women, and travelers.
While malaria is generally treatable, it is most advisable to adopt preventive measures against the infection, especially when traveling to a region that is known for malaria outbreaks. Mosquito repellents as well as anti-malarial medicines are readily available over the counter. However, these products may not be totally effective. Use mosquito nets to protect yourself from bites while sleeping. Schedule an appointment with your doctor before visiting any place that is home to mosquitoes and malaria.