Malaria key factors

(Source: World Health Organization)

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. There are four parasite species that cause malaria in humans - Plasmodium falciparum; Plasmodium vivax; Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale. Malaria is, however, preventable and curable.

Symptoms

Malaria is an acute febrile (feverish) illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms appear seven days or more after the infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache, chills and vomiting – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, malaria P.falciparum can progress to severe illness often leading to death. Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ involvement is also frequent.

Risk Groups

Specific population risk groups include:

  • Young children
  • Non-immune pregnant women
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • International travelers from non-endemic areas because they lack immunity
  • Immigrants from endemic areas and their children living in non-endemic areas and returning to their home countries

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment, particularly for P.falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing before administering treatment. Treatment solely on the symptoms should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not possible.

Prevention

There are currently no licensed vaccines against malaria or any other human parasites but anti-malarial medicines can be used to prevent malaria. For travellers, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage in malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria disease.

Prevention is better than cure. Contact your nearest Intercare Medical & Dental Centre for the prevention and treatment of malaria.

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