Simplified Facts about Malaria
Malaria is a transmittable blood disease caused by plasmodium, a parasitic protozoa carried by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Though this disease has been the cause of countless deaths, it is both curable and preventable. The major symptoms of malaria are headache, nausea, vomiting, and fever. However, these symptoms are not enough to conclude the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. A simple blood test is needed to establish the presence of the protozoa.
Malaria is prevalent in tropical regions, especially along the equator. This is because the warm and humid climate is conducive for the growth cycle of the plasmodium parasite, and for survival and multiplication of the Anopheles mosquitoes. You cannot find malaria in regions with temperature below 680F as the coolness inhibits the completion of the parasite's growth cycle.
Malaria is transmitted from one person to another and from one animal to another or to a human by the female Anopheles mosquito. The plasmodium parasite thrives in the body of the mosquito, and is transmitted to the person or animal though a bite. The parasites, if not detected early and treated, can grow uncontrollably in the blood, and eventually cause death.
This is one of the easiest diseases to prevent. There are 3 fundamental principles of prevention:
- Prevent the growth of the mosquitoes by making the environment unconducive. This can be achieved by use of insecticides, and destroying mosquito bleeding grounds such as stagnant water and tall grass/bushes.
- Prevent mosquito bites through the use of insecticides and sleeping under treated mosquito nets if staying in tropical, mosquito infested areas.
- Prevent the growth of the parasites in the body by use of various medicines. If you plan to visit a malaria prone area, visit your doctor and get a prescription of the preventive drugs.
There is a wide range of effective anti-malarial drugs. The type of medication, however, depends on the strain of the disease, age, severity, health condition, and if one is pregnant, and the stage of pregnancy. When this disease is detected early, oral medication can be administered to effectively destroy the parasites. If the malaria is advanced, intravenous anti-malarial drugs are required.
Types of Malaria
There are 5 malaria strains, though all are caused by the plasmodium parasite. They exhibit a lot of similarities in terms of transmission, symptoms, and how they can be prevented and treated.
- P. falciparum is the most common strain in Africa, Asia, South and Pacific America, and the Middle East. It is also the deadliest, and is the main cause of 90% of all the malaria fatalities globally. Use of weak drugs has led to the mutation of this parasite, making it resistant to many anti-malarial drugs. A combination of drugs is therefore needed to treat this strain.
- P. vivax is the more benign yet deadly strain, and is also common in East and West Africa. This strain is common in younger persons, and mostly attacks newly formed red blood cells.
- P. malariae is also found in East and West Africa, as well as in India, and South Asia. This strain attacks the mature red blood cells, and is easily treated.
- P. ovale is a milder form of P.vivax, and prefers new red blood cells. This strain is found in sub Saharan Africa. This is an easy to treat strain. However, if the medication is not taken to precise prescription, the infection can last up to 3 years with periods of attacks.
- P. knowlesi is the least common strain, which mostly affects South East Asian monkeys (macaques). However, the strain has been reported in humans, and is transmitted in a fashion similar to other strains. This strain is treatable using the normal anti malarial prescriptions.
Top 10 travel destinations known to be malaria infested
- East and West African countries
- South Africa
- North Africa
- South East Asia
- Middle East
- Central America
- South America
- Eastern Europe
- South Pacific
If you are planning to visit any of these regions, call us on 01632 960321 to get information on preventive and curative measures to take.
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