Contributed by – Healthians team
Among common infectious diseases in the country, Malaria is a particularly dangerous illness that can cause severe complications. While most of us know that it is a mosquito-borne disease, especially prevalent during the monsoon season, there is still a lack of awareness regarding its causes, symptoms and treatment. In the last few years, India has significantly reduced the incidence of this infection. However, there is still a lot to be done. It is an unfortunate situation where a disease which is preventable and treatable generally causes such a huge number of fatalities.
What Causes Malaria?
It is caused by the parasite Plasmodium. An infected female Anopheles mosquito releases the parasite into the bloodstream of the individual when it bites.
The Plasmodium parasite enters the body, and travels to the liver and matures there and then enters the bloodstream and starts infecting the red blood cells. In the next few days, the parasite multiplies rapidly in the body and infects and destroys RBCs causing a variety of symptoms.
There are 5 types of Malaria parasites. These are Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium falciparum, and Plasmodium knowlesi.
Each of these parasites causes Malaria, some more severe than the others. P.falciparum causes a more severe type of this infection that can lead to death.
What are the Symptoms of Malaria
Symptoms of this infection usually appear between 10 days and 4 weeks after the infection. Sometimes the symptoms may not appear for months and in certain cases, the parasite lies dormant in the body for a very long time. Symptoms of Malaria include-
- High fever
- Shaking Chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stools
Early diagnosis can help in eliminating the complications arising from the disease. It is highly advisable to get a test done as chances of misdiagnosis on the basis of symptoms are quite high.
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What are the complications of Malaria?
If not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, Malaria can become fatal. Some life-threatening complications of this infection include:
- Inflammation of blood vessels in the brain can cause cerebral Malaria.
- Cerebral Malaria may cause brain damage and coma.
- The accumulation of fluids in your lungs can cause pulmonary edema.
- Malaria parasites can affect the liver and kidney. It may cause organ failure.
- It can also lead to anaemia and low blood sugar.
Severe form of this infection can present with some of the following symptoms:
- Losing consciousness
- Uncontrolled chills
- Vital organ dysfunction
- Clinical jaundice and yellow fever
- Respiratory illness
How is Malaria diagnosed and treated?
It can be diagnosed with the help of a Malaria Test. A doctor may prescribe a test post a physical examination. Symptoms alone cannot distinguish Malaria from other infections. Hence, a proper blood test is needed to make the correct diagnosis. Getting a viral or fever test might also be advisable to eliminate other possible causes of infection.
The focus of its treatment is to remove the parasite from the body. Depending on the type of Malaria, the severity of the infection, the condition of the infected person, specific medications are administered or a combination may be prescribed. WHO recommends Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) to treat the uncomplicated type of this infection.
Is there a Malaria Vaccine?
Currently, there is no commercially available vaccine against this infection, however, research is ongoing and many different trials are underway across the world.
Prevention of Malaria
Prevention entails taking steps to avoid mosquitoes. Here are some ways you can do it:
- Use mosquito repellent inside homes, on your skin and clothing
- Use a mosquito net when you’re going to bed
- Wear fully covered clothing
- Avoid sleeping outside
- Do not let water stagnate anywhere near your home.
- Close your windows after sunset to avoid mosquitoes
- Avoid traveling to areas where this infection is endemic.