Malaria is caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium. When infected female Anopheles mosquitoes called “malaria vectors” bite, the parasites are transmitted to people. There are over 100 different types of Plasmodium parasite that infect various species. Among these, a total of five types can infect humans; of which those that pose the greatest threat are P. vivax and P. falciparum.
Malaria is rare in temperate climates but still common in countries with tropical and subtropical climatic conditions.
In India, the incidence of malaria has reduced to almost half and the deaths caused due to malaria have reduced to two-thirds since 2000, which is a great win in itself. Moreover, with a decline of 24% in malaria cases, it is expected that by 2020 there will be a further decline of 20-40% as reported in the World Malaria Report 2018.
However, there are still many roadblocks as malaria surveillance in India is very “weak”. Only 8% of the total estimated cases are reported as per the World Malaria Report 2017.
When a person is infected with malaria, the following signs and symptoms are noticed:
- Fatigue and muscle pain
- Vomiting and nausea
Additional signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal or chest pain
People suffering from malaria may also experience cycles of malaria ‘attacks’. The attack will start with chills and shivering, followed by a high fever then sweating and finally back to normal temperature. The signs and symptoms of malaria start to appear within 7 to 30 days post an infected mosquito bite. There are also certain types of parasites that can lay dormant for up to one year in the body.
Who is at Risk?
Some groups of the population are believed to be at higher risk of getting infected with malaria as well as developing severe ailment than others. These include children under the age of five years, infants, HIV/AIDS patients, and pregnant women. Non-immune migrants, travelers, and mobile populations are also at risk when staying in a high-risk malaria zone.
Mosquito Transmission Cycle
- When an uninfected mosquito feeds on a person suffering from malaria, it gets infected.
- When this infected mosquito bites another person, it transmits the parasite to that individual.
- As soon as the parasites enter human bloodstream, they travel to the liver, where they multiply and grow or may remain dormant for up to a year.
- These mature parasites then leave the liver and enter the bloodstream infecting the red blood cells. When this happens, the patient exhibits the typical malaria symptoms.
Other Modes of Transmission
Since malaria-causing parasite affects red blood cells, individuals can get malaria for being exposed to infected blood. It can happen:
- Through blood transfusions
- From mother to unborn child
- By sharing the same needle used for injection
Malaria can be fatal. Other serious complications include:
- Cerebral malaria
- Organ failure
- Breathing problems
- Low blood sugar
Certain types of malaria parasite of the milder form can persist for several years and relapse suddenly.
No Vaccine Available Yet
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available in the world that can effectively prevent malaria in humans. Scientists are however continuing the research.
Fortunately, malaria can be curbed. The sooner it is detected the better and faster it can be treated. The patient can recover quickly and the spread of the disease can be curtailed. In certain cases, malaria can lead to death.Consult a doctor if you experience symptoms common to malaria. Your doctor might recommend lab tests if he/she confirms the symptoms for early detection.
Nightingales now offer doctor consultation and lab tests at home, reach out to us for a door sample collection: Malaria Parasite Test – https://www.nightingales.in/lab-tests/tests/malarial-parasite-malaria-test-lab/55c0e27e02c54d0c001bf1cf.
Image Credits – Medical photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com