Malaria: Everyday Diagnosis for an Average African Man
Back to 1880, Malaria was derived from the Italian word mal'aria meaning "bad air". It was originally believed that swamp fumes in Rome were the cause of malaria, as outbreaks were a regular occurrence there. We made a little research on this infectious disease which is prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and wish to get our beloved viewers more enlightened.
Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans via the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito (the only existing mosquito causing malaria).
Scientists believe that more than 100 types of Plasmodium parasites can infect a variety of species but they identified the types that specifically infect humans.
Plasmodium falciparum: located worldwide but predominantly in Africa. It kills about 1million people every year. The type that causes most of the malaria cases in Nigeria.
Plasmodium vivax: located in Latin America, Africa, Asia.
Plasmodium ovale: located mainly in West Africa.
Plasmodium malariae: located worldwide and it is the only human malaria parasite with 3day cycle.
Plasmodium Knowlesi: located in South East Asia, it is associated with macaques ( a type of monkey)
Causes of Malaria
Malaria is caused by bites of female Anopheles mosquito which then infects the body with the parasite Plasmodium. The successful development of the parasite within the mosquito depends on several factors, the most important being humidity, and ambient temperatures.
When an infected mosquito bites a human host, the parasite enters the bloodstream and lays dormant within the liver. For the next 5-16 days, the host will show no symptoms but the malaria parasite will begin multiplying asexually. The new malaria parasites are then released back into the bloodstream when they infect red blood cells and again begin to multiply.
Some malaria parasites, however, remain in the liver and are not released until later, resulting in recurrence. An unaffected mosquito becomes infected once it feeds on an infected individual, thus beginning the cycle again.
Symptoms of Malaria
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified symptoms into two categories: Uncomplicated and severe malaria.
- Uncomplicated Malaria: Uncomplicated malaria is diagnosed when symptoms are present, but there are no clinical or laboratory signs to indicate a severe infection or the dysfunction of vital organs. Individuals suffering from this form, can eventually develop severe malaria if the disease is left untreated, Uncomplicated malaria typically has the following progression of symptoms through cold, hot and sweating stages: Sensation of cold, shivering Fever, headaches, and vomiting (seizures sometimes occur in young children) Sweats followed by a return to normal temperature, with tiredness.
- Severe Malaria is defined by laboratory evidence of vital organ dysfunction. This form has the capacity to be fatal if left untreated, symptoms of severe malaria include: Fever and chills, Impaired consciousness, Prostration (adopting a prone or prayer position), Multiple convulsions, Deep breathing and respiratory distress, Abnormal bleeding and signs of anemia, clinical jaundice and evidence of vital organ dysfunction.
Malaria is usually confirmed by the microscopic examination of blood films or by antigen -based rapid diagnostic tests (RDT). In some areas, RDTs need to be able to distinguish whether the malaria symptoms are caused by Plasmodium falciparum or by other species of parasites since treatment strategies could differ for non-falciparum infections. Microscopy is the most commonly used method to detect the malarial parasite
If left untreated... It may lead to Cerebral malaria, kidney failure, spleen and liver enlargement, febrile convulsion, anemia etc
Malaria is basically treated with anti-malaria which can be given orally and via injections. Though malaria vaccine is being worked on at the moment. In some cases where dehydration is severe, hydration is very much important
There is a significant risk of getting malaria if you travel to an affected area. It's very important you take precautions to prevent the disease. Malaria can, therefore, be avoided using the ABCD approach which stands for:
- Awareness of risk – find out whether you're at risk of getting malaria
- Bite prevention – avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, covering your arms and legs, and using a mosquito net
- Check whether you need to take malaria prevention tablets – if you do, make sure you take the right antimalarial tablets at the right dose, and finish the course
- Diagnosis – seek immediate medical advice if you have malaria symptoms, including up to a year after you return from traveling.