Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Malaria can cause fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. If not treated promptly, it can lead to severe complications and death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India accounted for about 6% of the global malaria cases and 7% of the malaria deaths in 2020. This pathology is more common in rural areas than in urban areas, and some regions have a higher risk than others. The peak season for transmission is from July to October, coinciding with the monsoon rains.
There are five types of Plasmodium that can cause malaria in humans, but the most dangerous one is Plasmodium falciparum, which can cause cerebral problems and organ failure. The other common type is Plasmodium vivax, which can cause relapses of the ilness after months or years of infection.
Symptoms of malaria
The symptoms usually appear 8 to 30 days after the mosquito bite, but sometimes they can take longer to develop. The typical symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Sweating and shivering
- Headache and body ache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Fast breathing
Some people may have mild or no symptoms, but others may develop severe malaria, which can be life-threatening. It can cause:
- High fever (above 40°C or 104°F)
- Seizures and convulsions
- Confusion and coma
- Difficulty breathing and coughing
- Low blood pressure and shock
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Kidney failure and dark urine
- Bleeding and clotting problems
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately. It can be diagnosed by a blood test that detects the presence of the parasite or its antigens. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are also available, which can give results within minutes.
Treatment of malaria
The treatment depends on the type of parasite, the severity of the infection, the age and weight of the patient, and the presence of any other medical conditions or allergies. The main drugs used to treat malaria are:
- Chloroquine: This is the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, or Plasmodium malariae. It is given as a tablet in a dose of 25 mg per kg of body weight over three days.
- Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT): This is the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum or mixed infections. It consists of two drugs: an artemisinin derivative (such as artemether or artesunate) and a partner drug (such as lumefantrine or amodiaquine). The dose and duration vary depending on the combination used.
- Quinine: This is an alternative treatment for uncomplicated malaria caused by any type of parasite, especially if chloroquine or ACT are not available or effective. It is given as a tablet or injection in a dose of 10 mg per kg of body weight every eight hours for seven days.
- Primaquine: This is an additional treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax or Plasmodium ovale, which can prevent relapses by killing the dormant forms of the parasite in the liver. It is given as a tablet in a dose of 0.25 mg per kg of body weight once a day for 14 days.
Hospitalization and intensive care ara usually nedded. The drugs used are:
- Intravenous artesunate: This is the preferred treatment for severe malaria caused by any type of parasite. It is given as an injection in a dose of 2.4 mg per kg of body weight at 0, 12, and 24 hours, then once a day until oral medication can be taken.
- Intravenous quinine: This is an alternative treatment for severe malaria caused by any type of parasite, especially if artesunate is not available or effective. It is given as an injection in a dose of 20 mg per kg of body weight over four hours, then 10 mg per kg every eight hours until oral medication can be taken.
Prevention of malaria
The prevention of malaria involves avoiding mosquito bites and taking preventive medication if traveling to high-risk areas. Some of the measures to prevent mosquito bites are:
- Using insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes when outdoors
- Sleeping under a mosquito net treated with insecticide
- Spraying insecticides or using vaporizers or coils indoors
- Eliminating or covering any standing water where mosquitoes can breed
Some of the drugs that can be taken to prevent malaria are:
- Chloroquine: This can be taken once a week, starting one week before travel and continuing for four weeks after return. It is effective against Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium malariae, but not against Plasmodium falciparum in most areas.
- Doxycycline: This can be taken once a day, starting one day before travel and continuing for four weeks after return. It is effective against all types of malaria parasites, but it can cause side effects such as sun sensitivity, nausea, and yeast infections.
- Mefloquine: This can be taken once a week, starting two weeks before travel and continuing for four weeks after return. It is effective against all types of malaria parasites, but it can cause side effects such as dizziness, headache, insomnia, and mood changes.
- Atovaquone-proguanil: This can be taken once a day, starting one day before travel and continuing for seven days after return. It is effective against all types of malaria parasites, but it can cause side effects such as stomach upset, headache, and rash.
The choice of preventive medication depends on the destination, the duration of travel, the medical history, and the personal preferences of the traveler. It is important to consult a doctor or a travel health clinic before traveling to a malaria-endemic area.
Malaria is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can be prevented and treated if diagnosed early. By following the appropriate measures to avoid mosquito bites and taking preventive medication if needed, travelers can reduce their risk of getting infected. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly, patients can increase their chances of recovery.