Malaria – All you need to Know

Malaria is a parasitic disease spread to humans through the bites of human mosquitoes. As per statistics, about 290 million people are infected with malaria every year, and more than 4 lakh people succumb to it.

To give you a better understanding of the disease, its symptoms, causes, and treatment, here is a blog.

Q. What is Malaria?

A. Malaria is a parasitic disease caused by a plasmodium parasite. The bite of infected mosquitoes transmits it. Its severity depends on the species of plasmodium. It can also spread by the use of blood products like unclean needles or unscreened blood. It requires a medical diagnosis, including lab tests. It is generally treatable by medical professionals and resolves within days to weeks. It rarely turns into a life-threatening disease.

Q. What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?

A. The signs and symptoms of malaria may vary from person to person. Some of the common symptoms are given below.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • The general feelings of discomfort and fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cough

The signs and symptoms of malaria may usually be visible within a few days after the mosquito bite. But in some cases, malaria parasites may live dormant in the human body for up to a year. Some people who suffer from malaria might experience certain cycles of malaria “attacks,” usually starting with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever and sweating, and then a return to normal temperature.

Q. What are the causes of malaria?

A. The female anopheles mosquito plays the role of a carrier of the parasite to and from human bodies. Also, a person can be infected by coming in contact with infected blood. This can happen through blood transfusion, sharing needles to inject drugs, and from a mother to her unborn child. There is a mosquito transmission cycle that takes place. It is as follows –

  • Uninfected mosquito – When a female anopheles mosquito feeds on an infected person, it becomes infected. It is a potential carrier of infection now.
  • Transmission of parasites – If this infected mosquito bites you, it will infuse your blood with the infection, and you can contract malaria.
  • In the liver – Once the parasites land inside your body, they travel to your liver; some of them can lie there dormant for as long as a year.
  • Into the bloodstream – On maturity, the parasites leave the liver and infect your red blood cells, leading to the body developing malaria symptoms.
  • On to the next person – If an uninfected mosquito bites an infected person at this point in the cycle, it will become infected with its malaria parasites and can spread them to the other people it bites.

Q. Who is at a higher risk?

A. Certain people are at an increased risk of the disease. They are as follows –

  • Young children and infants
  • Older adults
  • Travelers coming from areas with no malaria
  • Pregnant women and their unborn children

Q. When can malaria be fatal?

A. Malaria can be fatal when it comes with one or more of the below-given complications –

  • Cerebral malaria – occurs when a parasite-filled blood cell enters the small blood vessels in your brain and blocks them (cerebral malaria). This may lead to brain swelling or brain damage and cause seizures and coma.
  • Breathing problems – It causes fluid to accumulate in your lungs (pulmonary edema), making breathing difficult.
  • Organ failure – In some cases, it can damage one or multiple organs like the kidneys or liver. Also, it may cause the spleen to rupture. If these conditions occur, malaria can be fatal.
  • Anemia – Malaria can lead to a lack of red blood cells in the body. It will hamper the supply of oxygen to your body’s tissues and may cause anemia.
  • Low blood sugar – Some forms of malaria can cause blood sugar levels to fall down (hypoglycemia). This can result in a coma or death.

Q. Can malaria reoccur?

A. Yes, malaria can reoccur. Some types of the malaria parasite genus, plasmodium, are generally known to cause milder forms of malaria. Thus, they can persist for years and cause relapses.

Q. How can malaria be prevented?

A. Malaria can be prevented by taking the following easy steps to avoid mosquito bites. Remember, mosquitoes are the most active between dusk and dawn. Protect yourself from mosquito bites by:

  • Covering your skin – It is better to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts, tuck in your shirt, and tuck your pant legs into socks.
  • Applying insect repellent to the skin – Using insect repellent on your exposed skin can help prevent mosquito bites. Also, remember not to use a spray directly on your face and keep these products away from the reach of children under age 3.
  • Applying repellent to clothing – You can use sprays containing permethrin as they are safe to apply to clothing and restrain mosquitoes.
  • Sleeping under a net – Using bed nets treated with insecticides, such as permethrin, also helps prevent mosquito bites while sleeping.
  • Prevent mosquitos from breeding – don’t allow water to stagnate in your environment.

Malaria can be treated and is rarely life-threatening. Follow some measures and keep yourself away from malaria. Getting the appropriate medical treatment and care is crucial to avoid any associated medical complications.

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