What is Malaria?
Malaria is an infection caused by a parasites that enter the blood through the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. These parasites, called plasmodia, belong to at least five species. Most human infections are caused by either Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax.
Plasmodium parasites spend several parts of their life cycle inside humans and another part inside mosquitoes. During the human part of their life cycle, Plasmodium parasites infect and multiply inside liver cells and red blood cells.
Symptoms of malaria can begin as early as six to eight days after a bite by an infected mosquito.
- High fever with chills
- Profuse sweating when the fever suddenly drops
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal discomfort
- Nausea, vomiting
- Feeling faint when you stand up or sit up quickly
If treatment is delayed, more severe complications of malaria can occur. Most people who develop these complications are usually infected with the P. falciparum species.
- Brain tissue injury, which can cause extreme sleepiness, delirium, unconsciousness, convulsions and coma
- Pulmonary edema, which is a dangerous accumulation of fluid inside the lungs that interferes with breathing
- Kidney injury
- Severe anemia, resulting from the destruction of infected red blood cells
- Yellow discoloration of the skin
- Low blood sugar
Your doctor may suspect that you have malaria based on your symptoms and a history travel to a Malaria endemic area. Your doctor may find the common features on examination.
To confirm the diagnosis of malaria, your doctor will take samples of blood. Blood tests will be done to determine whether malaria has affected your levels of red blood cells and platelets, the ability of your blood to clot, your blood chemistry, and your liver and kidney function.
With treatment, symptoms of malaria usually go away in few days. Without proper treatment, malaria episodes (fever, chills, sweating) can return periodically.
One way to prevent malaria is to avoid mosquito bites with the following strategies:
- As much as possible, stay indoors in well-screened areas, especially at night when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use insecticide treated mosquito nets
- Wear clothing that covers most of your body.
- Use an insect repellent.
The antimalarial medications most commonly used include:
- Atovaquone and Proguanil
Malaria is treated with antimalarial medicines and measures to control symptoms, including medications to control fever, antiseizure medications when needed, fluids and electrolytes. The type of medications that are used to treat malaria depends on the severity of the disease
The common medicines available to treat malaria include:
- Artemether and lumefantrine