Malaria is an acute disease caused by the Plasmodia parasite that is spread to humans through the bites of female mosquitos that are infected. The parasite depends on the bloodstream to travel, and the liver to become fully matured for infecting red blood cells. There in the red blood cells, the parasite begins to replicate rapidly for more infections to occur.
Malaria is a tropical and sub-tropical disease commonly found in Africa, South Asia, and some parts of Central and South America. All it takes to get infected is a bite from an Anopheles mosquito. Greater than 1.5 million cases are reported per year in Nigeria.
Malaria is caused by a parasite, Plasmodium that is transmitted to humans through the Anopheles mosquito. While there are many types of Plasmodium in existence, five (5) types are responsible for the diseases: Plasmodium falciparum, plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium knowlesi, and Plasmodium vivax.
Since the Plasmodia parasite’s medium of movement is the blood, it can be transmitted through; using needles or syringes used on an infected patient, blood transfusion, organ transplant. Also, a mother that is due and also infected can pass the diseases to her child during birth.
The incubation period for malaria varies from seven (7) to thirty (30) days. This depends on the type of Plasmodia parasite causing the disease. The Plasmodium falciparum takes a shorter time to incubate and the Plasmodium malariae takes the longest. This also means that it takes the same amount of incubation time to observe the first malaria symptoms. With that in mind, the symptoms are as listed:
• Muscle pains
• Yellow skin (Jaundice)
• Kidney failure
In rare cases, these symptoms might not show up until a year later or longer
A proper diagnosis will begin with a consultation with a doctor. He or she would need to know your health history and probably the best way to formulate a treatment plan. During the consultation, a physical exam will be conducted. These may include watching out for malaria-related symptoms, checking your vitals (temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate). To better understand the type of plasmodia parasite causing the disease and to differentiate the symptoms as symptoms are similar to cold or flu, some blood tests will be ordered to determine:
• If you have malaria – Malaria Parasite (MP) Test.
• If malaria caused anemia – Full Blood Count (FBC).
• Type of drugs to administer based on the type of Plasmodia parasite found – Polymerase chain reaction test.
Malaria is an acute illness that can be fatal and can kill if not treated on time. Certain complications are surrounding it such as:
Cerebral Malaria: Blood vessels that are linked with the brain becomes blocked thereby causing brain damages, seizures, and coma.
Anemia: The parasite affects the red blood cells and these cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. In a situation where it becomes almost impossible for the red blood cells to, it leads to weakness and dizziness. This is an extreme case of anemia.
A pregnant woman would be advised to run a blood test to detect the presence of the parasite. Pregnant women tend to suffer most from the effect of malaria.
Prevention is always inexpensive as compared to treatment. For people living in, traveling to, or pregnant women in malaria-prone regions, it is advisable to prevent. Such prevention methods are:
• Make use of treated mosquito nets
• Use insect repellent creams
• Fumigating immediate environment with insecticide
After diagnosis, the doctor prescribes certain drugs to the patient. The challenge here is, people tend to undergo self-medication which is a bad idea as some parasites causing the illness are resistant to the drugs they might take. The first form of treatment is a good diagnosis then prescribing drugs best fitted for the type of malaria.
Recently, the World Health Organization, WHO approved a vaccine for treating falciparum malaria in children living in high-risk zones. The vaccine, RTS, S (Mosquirux) has been in the works for a long time and is finally approved for children only. It provides partial protection against malaria. It requires four injections. Other malaria vaccines are still being researched.