Malaria is a deadly disease which is transmitted from Anopheles mosquitos.

Plasmodium genus are parasites found in mosquitos that spread malaria. A variety of species can be infected by over 100 different types of Plasmodium parasites, though the symptoms, rate of replication and the severity all vary.

Out of the 100 types, only five types of the Plasmodium parasite are able to infect humans in various parts of the world, and from these five strains some have more serious symptoms.

When an Anopheles mosquito bites a human and transmits Plasmodium parasites, these parasites make their way to the victim’s liver where they start to replicate before they attack and destroy red blood cells.

Malaria can be treated and controlled if one receives early diagnosis, though resources for effective screening are lacking in some countries.

One vaccine is licensed for use in Europe, while surprisingly there is no vaccine currently available for use in the United States.

Advances in the medical field yielded treatment that eradicated malaria in the U.S. back in the early 1950s. Although 1,500 and 2,000 cases are still reported annually, these cases were related to travellers who visited regions where malaria is still prevalent.

Symptoms

Malaria symptoms are divided into two categories by doctors:

Uncomplicated malaria and severe malaria.

Uncomplicated malaria

The victim is infected by the Anopheles mosquito. The disease is diagnosed by doctors when symptoms are present but the symptoms do not suggest or display signs of serious infection or failing of vital organs leading to their dysfunction.

If urgent medical treatment is not sought or if a patient’s immunity level is low, Uncomplicated malaria can quickly advance to severe malaria.

The duration for the symptoms of uncomplicated malaria usual lasts 6 to 10 hours as well as recurring every other day.

Research has found some strains of the Plasmodium parasite have longer cycles or even cause a mixture of symptoms.

Symptoms could resemble that of a common flu, which sometimes leads to the disease being misdiagnosed, especially in areas when malaria is not expected to be found.

Extremely hot, shivering cold and sweating stages are the initial common symptoms of uncomplicated malaria, followed by:

  • nausea, fever and headaches
  • extreme tiredness
  • for younger people, seizures can sometimes occur

Many people can recognize the symptoms of malaria and normally treat themselves with home remedies without medical attention in areas where malaria is common.

Severe malaria

Clinical or laboratory evidence has shown vital organ dysfunction for this category of severe malaria.

Those with severe malaria will display these symptoms:

  • evidence of vital organ dysfunction
  • difficulty in breathing and respiratory distress
  • unusual bleeding along with signs of anaemia
  • alternating fever and chills
  • patient lying in a prone position (face down)
  • impaired consciousness
  • frequent convulsions (fits)
  • clinical jaundice where the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow

Without proper treatment, severe malaria will be fatal.

Treatment

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends ACT (artemisinin-based combination therapy) for treating uncomplicated malaria.

Artemisinin is extracted from a plant known as Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood. The number of Plasmodium parasites are rapidly reduced in the blood stream by artemisinin therapy. ACT treatment must contain an effective partner drug in cases where malaria shows resistance to it.

It is recommended that those who exhibit no symptoms to receive treatment to prevent the spread of the disease.

Avoid travelling to known malaria infested areas is a way to prevent one from contracting malaria. If travel is unavoidable, make sure you take along antimalarial drugs as a precautionary measure. Using mosquito repellent, bug spray, protective clothing and netted camps is a must if you can’t avoid these areas.

Do note that if you contract either category of malaria, the Plasmodium parasites can survive in your body and present its symptoms for up to a year, during which time donating blood is not possible.

As stated above, only one vaccine is licensed for use in Europe for its safety and effectiveness for malaria. No other country, including the U.S. have a vaccine that is licensed yet.

Last but not least, seek early medical attention. It is the most practical way to treat malaria and recover properly without complications.

By Aaron
6th May 18:32

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