Malaria Or Chikungunya? How to Know

Saturday, 1/10/2016

The mosquito-borne disease that is in the limelight nowadays is dengue and Chikungunya. Also, there are other diseases in the light, e.g., Malaria and typhoid.

Hence, there is a need for its identification and its diagnosis at it’s early stage to prevent suffering and pain.

Malaria and Chikungunya are different types of mosquito-borne diseases. Both of these diseases are quite serious and are accompanied by several symptoms. Because the symptoms are so similar for both the diseases, it can be quite difficult to identify the problem without laboratory testing. Although these diseases have almost identical manifestations, it is crucial for us to be able to differentiate them for proper treatment.


1. What causes Malaria?

Malaria is caused by plasmodium, which is a single-celled parasite, often transmitted by infected mosquitoes.

● The parasite gets injected into a person’s circulatory system through the saliva of the mosquito. The parasite injected through the saliva of the mosquito travels to the liver where it matures and reproduces more and more.

● When the plasmodium is matured, it infects the red blood cells until they burst out. Then, the newly developed plasmodium from the red blood cells spreads and infects more red blood cells.

2. Understand what’s going on:

In most cases, the signs and symptoms of Malaria will begin 8 to 25 days after being bitten by the infected mosquito.

● When the infected red blood cells spread throughout the body, they eventually die off.

● This leads to severe liver infection.

● Sometimes the infected red blood cells become “thicker” than usual and clot easily, which may lead to stoppage of blood flow to the brain.

● The variations in the signs and symptoms of Malaria may depend on the three following factors: the type of Malaria, your immune system and health of your spleen.

● There is a typical fever pattern in the case of Malaria, it starts with high grade fever, followed by severe chills and rigors, ending with profuse sweating. This may repeat twice in a day or alternate days depending upon the type of malarial parasite.

3. Get a diagnosis:

Because Malaria has unidentified symptoms, it may be more difficult to diagnose.
● Your health and travel history will be assessed to determine if you have travelled to a country plagued by Malaria.

● Get a physical examination. Although the physical examination results might or might not be specific, they will be used to make a diagnosis of Malaria.

● Get a blood film done. Your doctor will take a drop of your blood and place it on a microscopic slide.

In some cases severe complicated cases of malaria, the blood flow pattern in the brain gets affected leading to, a life threatening condition called ‘cerebral malaria’


1. What causes Chikungunya?

The virus of Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitoes and has recently been declared as an emerging global health threat.

● How the virus affects the body is not completely known. However, Chikungunya and Dengue have the almost identical symptoms, signs and disease processes and diagnosis.

2. What’s going on:

The detection period for Chikungunya is between 1 to 12 days. The signs of Chikungunya are usually: sudden rise of high fever, pain in the muscles and joints, skin rashes, connective tissues and even the central nervous system.
Keep an eye out for rashes and fever. As Chikungunya is a systemic infection, it usually is accompanied by fever and skin rashes.

In a nutshell:

• High fever (40°C/104°F)
• Joint pain (lower back, ankle, knees, wrists or phalanges)
• Joint swelling
• Rash
• Headache
• Muscle pain
• Nausea
• Fatigue

3. Get a diagnosis:

Going for an accurate diagnosis is very important to obtain the right treatment.
● A virus detection and isolation is the most confirmatory diagnosis used to diagnose Chikungunya. The process of isolation of the virus takes 1-2 weeks and must be carried out in bio-safety level III laboratories, which is not available in many developing countries.

● RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) makes the genes of Chikungunya which are more visible and shows evidence of the disease. The result can be obtained in 1 to 2 days.

● An ELISA assay is used to measure the levels of immunoglobulin in humans to identify the Chikungunya virus. Results can be obtained within 2 to 3 days.

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