Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness.
Malaria breeds mostly in warmer climates, where there is an abundance of humidity and rain. Malaria is not a contagious disease; it cannot be contracted through contact with an infected person, sexually or otherwise.
Malaria can occur if a mosquito infected with the Plasmodium parasite bites you. There are four kinds of malaria parasites that can infect humans: Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. falciparum.
However, two of them are considered the most dangerous:
1. P.falciparum – the most common malaria parasite in Africa. This species multiplies very quickly – causing severe blood loss and clogged blood vessels
2. P.vivax – most commonly found outside of sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Asia. This species can lie dormant – rise up to infect your blood months of years after the mosquito bite
Malaria is transmitted by blood, so it can also be transmitted through: an organ transplant, transfusion, and use of shared needles or syringes. An infected mother can also pass the disease to her baby at birth. This is known as congenital malaria.
Malaria signs and symptoms typically begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A malaria infection is generally characterized by recurrent attacks with the following signs and symptoms:
● Moderate to severe shaking chills
● High fever
Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria. During your appointment, your doctor will review your health history, including any recent travel to tropical climates. A physical exam will also be performed. Here are some methods that can be done to diagnose Malaria:
1. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDT – Antigen test) – as an alternative where reliable microscopic diagnosis is not available.
2. Molecular diagnosis that known more accurate than microscopic but also more expensive and requiring a specialized laboratory
3. Serology (Antibody test) – by using indirect immune - fluorescence (IFA) or enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) – serology test measures past malaria experience.
Early and accurate diagnosis of malaria is essential for both rapid and effective disease management and surveillance. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment particularly for P. falciparum malaria is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
Researchers are working to create a vaccine against malaria. Vaccination is expected to become an important tool to prevent malaria in the future
Anti-malarial treatment policies vary between countries and depend on the epidemiology of the disease, transmission and patterns of drug resistance. Anti malarial can also measure to control symptoms including medications to control fever, anti-seizure medications when needed, fluids and electrolytes.
The type of medications that are used to treat malaria depends on the severity of the disease and the likelihood of chloroquine resistance.
The types of drugs and the length of treatment will vary, depending on which type of malaria parasite you have - the severity of your symptoms - your age and whether you`re pregnant or not
The most common medication for anti-malarial include:
● Chloroquine (Aralen)
● Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin)
● Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
● Combination of atovaquone and proguanil (Malarone)
The history of anti-malarial medicine has been marked by a constant struggle between evolving drug-resistant parasites and the search for new drug formulations. In many parts of the world, for instance, resistance to chloroquine has rendered the drug ineffective
Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has given the seal of approval to tafenoquine; a drug that can flush the parasite out of its hiding place in the liver and stop people getting it again.
It can be taken alongside another medicine to treat the immediate infection. There is already a medication that can be used to get rid of malaria hiding in the liver called primaquine.
But unlike the single dose of tafenoquine needed, primaquine often needs to be taken for 14 days.
Some experts are concerned that many people feel better after just a few days and stop taking the pills, allowing the parasite to awaken at a later date.
Travelers coming from areas without malaria often have no immunity and are very vulnerable to the illness.
If you`re traveling to locations where malaria is common, take preventive medicine before, during and after your trip. Many malaria parasites are now immune to the most common drugs used to treat the disease.
See your doctor before you travel to a tropical country where malaria is common. Sleeping under a mosquito net may help prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito. Covering your skin or using insect repellent contains DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) may also help prevent infection.