Malaria: Causes And Symptoms

Friday, 30/09/2016

Malaria: Causes And Symptoms

Malaria is a serious, and sometimes fatal, disease that is spread by the mosquitoes and is caused by a parasite. The origin of the word ‘Malaria’ comes from Italy during the mid-18th century from the word Mal’aria, meaning ‘bad air’. The word originally denoted the unfavourable atmosphere around the the low-lying wet marshy lands.
Also known as the Jungle Fever, it is a disease caused by a Plasmodium parasite and is transmitted by the bite of the infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. This disease is mostly prominent in Tropical and Subtropical regions that exist around the equator.

Is Malaria contagious?
• Beating the myth of catching hold of this disease through physical contact, it has been proven that Malaria is not a contagious disease.
• It cannot be spread from a person to another like any normal cold or flu neither is it sexually transmitted. Malaria is transmitted from mosquitoes to humans.
• There are only rare circumstances such as pregnancy when the disease is spread without a mosquito, from the mother to the unborn child (Congenital Malaria), or by blood transfusions or share of infectious needles.

What causes Malaria?

Life Cycle of Malaria in three stages:
● The primitive stage is when the female Anopheles mosquito carries the parasite.
● The parasite which is the Plasmodium has different subspecies namely P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. Malariae, and P. knowlesi, each causing separate symptoms and adapts to separate treatments.
● To grow and survive, the parasite first travels to human liver and then penetrates into the bloodstream infecting and rupturing the red blood cells. For the next 5 to 16 days, the host shows no symptoms but the Malaria parasite keeps on multiplying asexually.

An unaffected mosquito becomes infected once it feeds on an individual who had already been infected and thus, the cycle begins again.

Symptoms and Complications:
The incubation period of Malaria is 15 to 30 days till the symptoms start to become visible.
Malaria can be classified as:

1) Uncomplicated Malaria
The most common symptoms of Uncomplicated Malaria are:
● Fever and chills
● Headaches
● Body pain
● Nausea and vomiting
● General weakness

The definitive description of a Malaria attack, that is hardly observed, would be a 6 to 12 hour period of cold and shivering, fluctuating with fever and headaches. Thereafter comes a phase of sweating and tiredness. At times, it is categorised into the cold and hot stages as well.
Because these symptoms are quite nonspecific, it becomes essential to assess if the patient has the risk components for the Jungle Fever (usual travel in endemic regions).

2) Complicated or Severe Malaria

A patient suffers Severe Malaria when their different body systems are affected by the Malaria parasite. The symptoms of this are:
● Severe anaemia (due to destruction of red blood cells)
● Kidney failure
● Cerebral Malaria — seizures, unconsciousness, abnormal behaviour, or confusion
● Cardiovascular collapse
● Low blood sugar (in pregnant women after treatment with quinine)

Some Dos and Don’ts during Malaria:
It is always recommended that prevention is better than the cure. Both economically and physically, it is advised to follow some precaution to keep ourselves protected from infectious diseases like Malaria.

1) Sleeping under a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticides as it protects against Malaria causing mosquitoes.
2) Indoor residual spraying is the most effective method to quickly lessen the Malaria causing mosquitoes.
3) Pregnant women living in areas of high-to-low Malaria transmission, it is recommended by WHO to go through the intermittent preventive treatment after every trimester whenever you visit the doctor as per the schedule.
4) For people travelling to Malaria affected places, it is necessary to get the pre-vaccination done for protection.

1) Drinking alcohol could increase your chances of getting infected by Malaria, so it is advised to stay away from the alcohol when in a Malaria-infected area.
2) Never take medicines or drugs without the consultation of a doctor as wrong medication can also lead to death.
3) Do not keep yourself uncovered at the dawn of the day because these mosquitos attack at this time and also at dawn.
4) Do not accumulate old tyres, water tanks, tubes, plastic containers, etc. as they can hold still water which might become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.