Malaria is a serious disease, affecting millions of people every year. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria reported worldwide, including 445 000 deaths.
Malaria is a disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite and it is classified as a blood disease. The parasite is transmitted and spread when a person is bitten by the female Anopheles mosquito. It’s important to note that the disease is neither a virus nor a bacterial infection and cannot be spread directly from person to person.
Malaria is most common in Africa, however, it has also proven to be a problem across Asia and South America. The reason Malaria is so common in these regions is mainly due to the climate, which is above 20°C, allowing the parasite to complete its necessary life cycle in the female Anopheles mosquito.
- What causes malaria?
When a person is bitten by the female Anopheles mosquito and is therefore infected with malaria, the parasite goes directly into the blood. Through the blood, the parasite goes to the liver where it infects the liver cells. Once this happens, the liver cells burst and the parasites multiply and go on to infect the red blood cells of the body. This causes terrible symptoms that, if left untreated, may result in death.
The initial common symptoms of malaria often mimic those of the flu. These include cold sweats and fever, headaches, aching bones and muscles, exhaustion, confusion and delirium. However, if these symptoms go unnoticed and untreated, the disease could cause jaundice, cognitive issues, anaemia, kidney failure, seizures, and may even result in a coma or death.
Malaria can be diagnosed through a blood test. A sample of the person’s blood is taken and a microscope is used to identify the parasite. Before this can take place, the blood is smeared and stained on a slide. Unfortunately, in some cases, more than one sample may have to be examined due to the varying levels of the parasites in the blood over time.
- Prevention and treatment
There are measures that can be taken to prevent a person becoming infected with malaria. These include various medications, the most popular being Malarone (which is the brand name for Atovaquone and Proguanil), Mefloquine, Chloroquine, Primaquine, and Doxycycline. It is important to see a healthcare professional before deciding on an antimalarial drug. You should also take precautions such as using mosquito repellent and mosquito nets in areas known for high levels of malaria infection.
Once a person has been infected with malaria, they will need to be seen by a medical professional and medication will be administered accordingly.
- What are the symptoms of malaria?
The early symptoms of malaria are quite similar to those of the average flu. The most common of these are fevers, body and muscle pain, chills, exhaustion and bewilderment. Keep in mind, however, that more severe symptoms may differ according to the type of malaria.
- How is malaria diagnosed?
Malaria is diagnosed through a blood test where a medical professional examines a small sample of your blood under a microscope to check whether malaria parasites are visible.
- How is malaria treated?
Malaria is treated by removing the Plasmodium parasite from the body through the use of medications which include antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine and atovaquone-proguanil.
- What happens if malaria is left untreated?
Untreated malaria could be fatal or cause the patient to end up in a comatose state. Other severe symptoms include cognitive issues, jaundice, anaemia, kidney failure and seizures.
- How does malaria spread?
The female Anopheles mosquito spreads malaria by infecting a person with the Plasmodium parasite through biting them after she has bitten an infected person.
- How does malaria affect the body?
After you have been bitten and infected with malaria, the parasites travel to your liver through your blood and multiply inside the liver cells. Those cells will then rupture and the new parasites move to infect the red blood cells in your body. The red blood cells eventually burst, which causes the symptoms of malaria.
- Why is malaria dangerous?
Malaria is dangerous because the early symptoms mimic those of the flu and therefore many people go undiagnosed. Once left untreated, malaria can be fatal or result in a coma, kidney failure, mental confusion, anaemia and jaundice.
- Can malaria kill you?
Yes, malaria can kill you if you are not treated for the disease, using antimalarial medications.
- What causes malaria?
The Plasmodium parasite causes malaria and is spread through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito.
- Where is malaria most common?
African countries, parts of Asia, and Central and South America have the highest rates of malaria. This is due to the warm weather in these locations is ideal for the Plasmodium parasite to complete its life cycle inside the female Anopheles mosquito.
- Which mosquito causes malaria?
Malaria infection is caused by the bite of the infected female Anopheles mosquito.
- What are the different types of malaria?
The most common and fatal type of the malaria parasite is the Plasmodium falciparum. The other four types include: Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium malariae.
- Which type of malaria is most deadly?
Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly malaria parasite and could result in death after a period of days.
- When do malaria symptoms start to appear?
Typically, the symptoms of malaria will show between 10 and 30 days. However, symptoms can develop within as short a period as seven days and as long as one year to show.
- What is the life cycle of malaria?
The malaria parasites enter the bloodstream of a person through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. These parasites travel through the blood to the liver where they multiply and rupture the cells of the liver, making their way to the red blood cells which burst as a result. This produces the symptoms of malaria.
- Is malaria contagious?
Malaria cannot be spread from one human being to another. It is spread through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito.
- Why is malaria hard to eradicate?
Attempts to create a malaria vaccine have failed because the single-cell parasite responsible for the disease can evolve, which means that human immune systems are unable to build up a long-term immunity. Another challenge to eradicating the disease is that the Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax (the most common types of malaria in humans) require different treatments and can be resistant to specific drugs, which makes it difficult to ensure every case is treated.
- What food can’t you eat if you have malaria?
Anyone infected with malaria should stay away from oily, processed, fried, spicy or pickled foods, as well as any foods which are high in fibre.
- When was malaria discovered?
Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French army surgeon, discovered malaria in 1880 while in Algeria.
- Why is malaria found in the tropics?
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite which needs the warm weather of the tropics (above 20°C) to finish its life cycle in the female Anopheles mosquito.