Malaria: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Malaria: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by parasitic single-celled microorganisms belonging to the Plasmodium group. It affects both humans and other animals. Symptoms are observed 10-15 days after bitten by an infected mosquito; typically includes fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. Recurrence of malaria is common if it was not treated properly before.

Transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito, the parasites are introduced from the mosquito’s saliva into a person’s blood which later travels to the liver where they mature and reproduce. There are 5 species of Plasmodium that can infect humans; P. falciparum being the dangerous one because P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae cause a milder form of malaria. Malaria is diagnosed by blood test. Several medications are available to prevent malaria. No effective vaccine exists in present, although efforts to develop one are ongoing.

The disease is widespread in tropical areas including sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Approximately 216 million cases of malaria were reported globally resulting in an estimated 445,000 to 731,000 deaths.

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How Does Malaria Affect Your Body?

After being bitten by an infected mosquito, a person will not notice symptoms for one week to one month. During this incubation period, malarial parasites multiply in a person’s liver before invading red blood cells in the bloodstream. These parasites then rupture RBCs releasing a toxin, hemozoin which causes chills and fever. As this progresses, a person’s spleen and liver enlarge which later may cause anemia or jaundice. In severe cases, it attacks the brain and creates neurological problems.

What Are The Causes of Malaria?

  • Malaria is caused by a parasitic protozoan called Plasmodium, transmitted most commonly by female Anopheles
  • It can also be caused by using shared and infected syringes.
  • Organ transplantation can sometimes cause malaria if the donor had an infection.
  • Transfusion of blood sometimes may cause malaria.
  • From an infected mother to her baby during birth can cause malaria in the child.
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What Are The Risk Factors of Malaria?

  • Living in tropical or sub-tropical areas where the risk is common is the biggest risk factor.
  • Young children and infants are at increased risk.
  • Travelers coming from areas with no malaria are at increased risk when travelling to tropical areas.
  • Poverty, lack of knowledge and no access to health care is also one factor.
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What Are The Symptoms of Malaria?

Symptoms of malaria are usually observed in a week or month after being bitten by the female mosquito. Sometimes the parasite may remain dormant in the body for up to a year.

  • Recurrent fever and chills can be experienced which is caused by the release of toxin when the parasite destroys the red blood cells.
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Body ache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Mental confusion

How is Malaria Diagnosed?

  • Blood tests – A blood test can show the presence of the parasite and helps in determining which type of malaria parasite is causing the symptoms. If your infection is caused by a parasite resistant to certain drugs and whether the disease is affecting any of vital organs.
  • PCR – This is done to detect if the parasite’s DNA has been developed; not commonly used due to their cost and complexity.
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How To Prevent And Control Malaria?

The risk of malaria can be reduced by:

  • Using mosquito nets and insect repellents.
  • By spraying insecticides.
  • By draining standing water.
  • Wearing protective clothes like full sleeves shirt and pants.

Treatment of Malaria – Allopathic Treatment

Malaria is treated with anti-malarial medications, based on the type and severity of the disease:

  • ACT (artemisinin-combination therapy) – This is used to treat uncomplicated malaria which decreases resistance to any of the single drug component.
  • Amodiaquine
  • Lumefantrine
  • Mefloquine
  • Sulfadoxine
  • Quinine and clindamycin – This combination drug is recommended for malaria in early pregnancy i.e., 1st trimester
  • Tafenoquine – This prevents relapses after vivax malaria is confirmed.
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Treatment of Malaria – Homeopathic Treatment

  • Chininum Sulphuricum – This is very effective for the chill that occurs at 3 pm every day and for shivering even in a warm room.
  • Nux Vomica – For malaria in the cold stage, with blueness of fingernails, this is recommended.
  • Boletus and Eupatorium Perfoliatum are the most effective medicines for malaria with profuse sweating. Boletus is prescribed for profuse perspiration, especially at night, along with severe chills and fever.
  • Arsenic album and China are recommended for malaria with a high fever.
  • Gelsemium – For use in children. Prescribed for the chill that runs up the back or starts from the feet.
  • Natrum Muriaticum and Pulsatilla are prescribed for malaria with a headache. Natrum Muriaticum is used in case of continued chilliness along with a headache, especially on waking in the morning. In case of chill with pains in certain spots, especially at evening, Pulsatilla is one of the best medicine.
  • Apis Mellifica – This is prescribed when feeling chills with sudden violent vomiting is present.
  • Ferrum Arsenicum – This medicine is given in the last stages of malaria when the liver and spleen are enlarged.

Malaria – Lifestyle Tips

  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Apply mosquito repellent cream.
  • Use mosquito net and screening on windows.
  • Use insect repellant or insecticides.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Malaria?

  • Brisk walking
  • Yoga
  • Jogging

Malaria & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • Pregnant women are susceptible to malaria, and in low-transmission settings, there’s a greater risk of severe Plasmodium falciparum
  • RBCs infected by falciparum isolate in the placenta, disrupting nutritional exchange between mother and fetus and causing intra-uterine growth retardation.
  • Infection with vivax, as with P.falciparum, causes chronic anaemia and placental malaria infection, reducing the birth weight and increasing the risk of neonatal death.
  • Women in their first pregnancy can face a reduction in birth weight which is approximately two-thirds of what is associated with falciparum, but with P.vivax the effect appears to increase with successive pregnancies.
  • Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy reduces maternal malaria episodes, maternal and fetal anaemia, placental parasitemia, low birth weight, and neonatal mortality.
  • All pregnant women should receive iron and folic acid supplementation as a part of routine prenatal care.

Common Complications Related to Malaria

  • Cerebral malaria.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Organ failure.
  • Anemia
  • Low blood sugar.

FAQs

Q. Is malaria a contagious disease?

A. No, malaria cannot be transmitted from person-to-person and is not even sexually transmitted.

Q.  What is known about the long-term effects of drugs that are commonly used to prevent and treat malaria?

A. Drugs used to prevent and treat malaria have been shown to be well-tolerated for at least 1 year or more.

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