Overview – What is it?
Malaria is a parasite-caused infection, spread by the female Anopheles mosquito which breads in stagnant water. This disease can cause fever, chills, headaches and other symptoms which, if not treated, get worse.
It is however, treatable by a doctor who tests the blood to check for the presence of the Malaria-causing parasite. There are a number of drugs that can be used in the prevention and treatment of this disease, including Quinine and Maralone.
Causes – What causes it?
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites which are carried by the female Anopheles mosquito. There are 5 other types of parasites that cause malaria. Of those, two (P. Falciparum and P. Vivax) are the biggest threat. A mosquito bite from an infected mosquito is what spreads malaria from one person to another.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
When a person becomes infected with malaria, it takes an average of 10- 15 days for the symptoms to manifest, but in some cases, the symptoms can start before 10 days or even after months. The disease starts with mild symptoms like:
- Nausea and Vomiting,
- Body aches, and
- General body weakness.
The symptoms, however, get worse if one does not get treated. In severe cases, the following symptoms may occur:
- Low blood sugar,
- Kidney failure, and
- Cardiovascular problems.
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
- Physical Examination: An initial consultation with a doctor is important because you can explain your symptoms. However, malaria symptoms may be similar to those of other diseases, like Influenza and therefore, tests can be done to confirm whether what you have is malaria. The doctor might want to know whether you have travelled recently to high risk malaria areas.
- Antigen Test: To determine whether you have malaria, an antigen test can be used. The test is quick. After the test a blood test might be recommended. The antigen test uses a test pad, on which a small sample of blood is placed, and after about 15 minutes, if someone is infected with malaria, the pad indicates the presence of the disease.
- Blood Test: A blood test is done by looking at a blood sample under a microscope to check for the presence of the malaria-causing parasites.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
The treatment for Malaria depends on a number of factors including:
- How severe the symptoms are,
- Which parasite has caused it, and
- The geographical area the patient travelled to or lives in, so as to determine drug resistance.
After determining these factors, medicine is then administered to the patient in pill or liquid form. Some examples of Malaria medicines include:
- Chloroquine: Apart from treating malaria, this tablet can be used to prevent the disease. It can only be used in Chloroquine sensitive areas.
- Quinine: This Malaria treatment drug can be used to treat malaria that is resistant to Chloroquine.
- Doxycycline: This drug is used to treat and prevent malaria and is administered in combination with Quinine. The drug is also useful in areas with Chloroquine resistance.
- Mefloquine: This drug is recommended for pregnant mothers to treat or prevent malaria infection. It is given in tablet or liquid form.
- Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone): This tablet is a combination of two drugs; Atovaquone and Proguanil. Adults and children can take this drug, however, pregnant women should not.
- Quinidine: This medication can also be used to prevent malaria as well as to treat the disease. In some cases, it can cause irregular heartbeats.
- Artemether: This treatment is used to treat non-severe Malaria where Quinine is not effective. It can be used to treat malaria in pregnant women, however, it is not recommended in the first trimester.
If you suffer any side effects from the use of any of these drugs, you should contact a doctor immediately.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
Malaria prevention is a significant initiative that has reduced malaria cases and deaths, especially in recent decades. Since 2010, malaria deaths have reduced by 29% among all age groups and 35% among children. This is important because children below the age of 5 years are at the highest risk of infection.
To prevent Malaria, you have to consider whether there is a concern about malaria in the geographical area in which you live or to which you are travelling. If there is a concern, then you should take the following steps:
- When travelling to high risk malaria areas, take malaria prevention drugs as recommended by a medic.
- Indoor spraying with insecticide, which; depending on the surface of the houses to be sprayed, can also be used in high risk areas to kill the mosquito.
Since medication may not be completely effective, you should avoid being bitten by mosquitos. The following are some ways to prevent mosquito bites:
- Sleeping under a treated mosquito bed net,
- Applying mosquito repellent ointment,
- Wearing clothes that cover most of your exposed body parts, and
- Getting rid of stagnant water in the area where you live because the Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the malaria-causing parasites need water to survive.
Remember that early diagnosis and treatment of malaria can prevent death. If you get any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.