What is Malaria?
Malaria is a blood disease caused by a Plasmodium parasite which can be transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It is one of the most serious and dangerous diseases across the world. When an infected mosquito bites someone, it injects the parasite into their body.
According to doctors, there are five types of parasites that can infect humans and cause malaria. These parasites grow in numbers and start infecting and destroying the red blood cells. Though one can adopt malaria treatment measures such as using mosquito repellent and covering the body, it is difficult to control its occurrence as malaria vaccine is still being researched.
What are the Symptoms of Malaria?
Usually, malaria symptoms develop within ten days to four weeks. In some cases, they may not even appear for months as some parasites can stay in the body for a long time without being active.
Depending on the type of Plasmodium parasite, malaria can exhibit various symptoms which are classified into two categories: uncomplicated and severe malaria.
Symptoms of Uncomplicated Malaria:
- Cold sensations with fever
- Vomiting and headaches
- Sweating with tiredness
- Occurrence of seizures in younger people
Symptoms of Severe Malaria:
- Chills and fever
- Impaired consciousness
- Multiple convulsions
- Breathing troubles
- Abnormal bleeding or anaemia
- Clinical jaundice
- Vital organ dysfunction
If left untreated, uncomplicated malaria can progress to become severe malaria. Therefore, it is crucial to get it diagnosed and further treated in the early stage to avoid any fatal results.
What are the Types of Malaria?
As mentioned above, malaria can be of various types. The four main types of malaria are as follows:
- Plasmodium vivax (P.v.)
This is one of the most common types of malaria that exhibit flu-like symptoms. It is usually found in Asia and Latin America and can cause relapses.
- Plasmodium ovale (P.o)
Majorly occurring in Africa and the Pacific islands, this is the rarest type of malaria. It can also relapse as the parasite can live in the patient’s liver for up to 4 years causing them to be sick again.
- Plasmodium malariae (P.m)
Not a common type of malaria, Plasmodium malariae manifests itself with malaria fever and cold chills. It can cause a chronic infection.
- Plasmodium falciparum (P.f)
It is the most lethal type of malaria that can have adverse effects on the brain and central nervous system. Hence, it is vital to get malaria treatment immediately to save the patient.
How is Malaria Diagnosed?
An early and precise diagnosis is the initial step towards effective treatment of malaria. To identify the infection, the doctors first perform a clinical diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms and physical examination. After that, laboratory tests are performed to confirm the presence of the parasite. Nowadays, rapid diagnostic tests (antigen tests) are also performed to get the diagnosis done in a few minutes.
How is Malaria Treated?
Once a person is diagnosed with malaria, the doctors begin the treatment by prescribing certain medications. The prescription is based on the type of parasite that has affected the patient. In some cases where the parasite may exhibit resistance to drugs, doctors use a combination of medicines to treat the condition.
Treatment of malaria depends on many factors including disease severity, the species of malaria parasite causing the infection and the part of the world in which the infection was acquired. The latter 2 characteristics help determine the probability that the organism is resistant to certain antimalarial drugs. Additional factors such as age, weight, and pregnancy status may limit the available options for malaria treatment.