Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. An estimated 3.4 billion people in 106 countries and territories are at risk of malaria - nearly half of the world's population. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk (the rate of new cases) fell by 37% globally. In that same period, malaria death rates among populations at risk fell by 60% globally among all age groups and by 65% among children under 5.
Malaria can occur if a mosquito infected with the Plasmodium parasite bites you. There are 4 parasite species that cause malaria in humans: Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. falciparum and 2 of these species (P. falciparum and P. vivax) pose the greatest threat.
P. falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite on the African continent. It is responsible for most malaria-related deaths globally.
P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
An infected mother can also pass the disease to her baby at birth. This is known as congenital malaria. Malaria is transmitted by blood, so it can also be transmitted through:
an organ transplant
use of shared needles or syringes
The symptoms of malaria typically develop within 10 days to four weeks following the infection. In some cases, symptoms may not develop for several months. Some malarial parasites can enter the body but will be dormant for long periods of time. Common symptoms of malaria include:
shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe
Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. If coverage of vector control interventions within a specific area is high enough, then a measure of protection will be conferred across the community.
WHO recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control. Two forms of vector control
– insecticide-treated mosquito nets and
– indoor residual spraying are effective in a wide range of circumstances.
Anti-malarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria. For travellers, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria disease. For pregnant women living in moderate-to-high transmission areas, WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations.
Malaria can be a life-threatening condition, especially if you have P. falciparum. Treatment for the disease is typically provided in a hospital. Your doctor will prescribe medications based on the type of parasite that you have. In some instances, the medication prescribed may not clear the infection because of parasite resistance to drugs. If this occurs, your doctor may need to use more than one medication or change medications altogether to treat your condition. Additionally, certain types of malaria, such as P. vivax and P. ovale, have liver stages where the parasite can live in your body for an extended period of time and reactivate at a later date causing a relapse of the infection. If you are found to have one of these types of malaria, you will be given a second medication to prevent a relapse in the future.
Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated July 20, 2016.
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