What is malaria?

What is malaria and what causes malaria?

What is malaria?Malaria is a dangerous mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting animals, including humans. It is caused by parasites belonging to the Plasmodium genus. Malaria is transmitted from one host to another via infected female Anopheles mosquitos. There are over 200 millions of malaria cases reported every year, and over 500,000 deaths per year. While there are over 100 malaria parasites, the main four types of parasites that can infect humans with malaria via mosquitoes are: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. Once the parasite enters the human body, it will find its way to the liver where it will multiply. After about 15 days, it will enter the blood stream and infect red blood cells.

Malaria Map

Map of malaria worldwide countries
This map was created by Petaholmes using Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control

Which mosquitoes carry malaria?

Anopheles stephensi carries malaria malriaMalaria is carried from one human to another through infected female Anopheles mosquitos. Anopheles mosquitos lay their eggs on clean and unpolluted water so they can float. They typically take 3 days to hatch. Anopheles mosquitos, unlike other types of mosquitoes, are a good host choice for plasmodium because their gut flora is favorable to the development of the parasite once ingested. Anopheles mosquitoes are most active at night and like to rest indoors. This is why insecticide treated bed nets are a good preventive product against Anopheles mosquitos.

How mosquitoes transmit malaria?

If a female Anopheles mosquito bites a person contaminated with malaria, that mosquito will ingest the parasites. When that mosquito bites another person, the parasites will then be transmitted to the other person. Malaria parasites affect red blood cells, so transmission is possible via blood transfusion, pregnancy or other instance where blood is exchanged. It is not sexually transmissible.

The life Cycle of the malria parasite
Image courtesy of NIAID

What are the symptoms of malaria?

Symptoms of MalariaPeople infected with malaria will often feel very sick and will have high fevers, chills and other flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and headaches. Symptoms develop from 7 to 30 days after the initial bite. It is important to note that the parasites can remain dormant in the liver for up to several years and therefore, attacking red blood cells on and off for years and creating relapse. If not treated properly, malaria can develop into hypoglycemia, anemia, coma, disabilities, and death. Depending on the strain of the parasite, the disease cycle will differ and so are the symptoms.

How to diagnosis Malaria?

Malaria is easily diagnostic with a parasitological lab test that examines your blood under a microscope in order to identify the parasites. A rapid diagnostic test (antigen testing) is an other option: the blood is taken from your finger and applied on a test strip that changes color depending on whether or not you have contracted malaria.

What are the treatments for malaria?

Treatment for maleriaAs for most life-threatening diseases, the earlier it can be detected, the better off you will be. If you suspect that you may have been infected with malaria, seek medical attention right away. A full recovery is expected if treated early and properly. There are several type of prescription medication available. The goal of the treatment is to get rid of the plasmodium parasite from the bloodstream. If infected with P. falciparum, complications are more likely, and risks of death is much higher. In severe cases, intravenous medication and critical care will be recommended.

Is there a vaccine for malaria?

Currently, there are no vaccines approved in the USA. European countries have approved a vaccine in 2015, called Mosquirix. Essentially, the vaccines prevents the parasite from entering the liver.

How to prevent malaria?

It is essential to limit the exposure to mosquito bites in order to limit the risk of malaria infection. Insect repellents made out of DEET and picaridin are a must for individual protection. For indoor protection in areas where malaria is prevalent, IRS (indoor residual spraying) on the walls is recommended: when mosquitoes come in contact with the insecticide from the wall, they will die. Bed nets that have been treated with the proper insecticide is ideal for bedrooms. As always, eliminating standing water will reduce the number of breeding sites available.

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