The transmission of malaria typically happens when a female Anopheles mosquito bites a person. Which causes a release of malarial parasites in the bloodstream of the person. The infected female mosquito is the carrier of the infection. Apart from this, malaria can also spread from blood transfusion, organ donation, and contaminated needles.
Malaria due to mosquito bite
After entering the host body through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, the malarial parasites might take a few days to become mature and multiply. They might reach the liver through the bloodstream and remain there in a dormant state for weeks or up to several years. They might come out after becoming mature and enter the bloodstream again and start affecting the red blood cells.
The parasites grow and infect the red blood cells. They multiply inside the red blood cells and cause damage. This can lead to a reduction in the red blood cells. As a result, the infected person might develop health issues related to a low red blood cell (RBC) count. The person may experience breathing difficulties and the oxygen levels in their blood also drop due to low RBC count.
Malaria due to blood transfusion
Transmission of malarial parasites might happen because of blood transfusion. It is called transfusion-transmitted malaria. It might happen accidentally when the plasmodium parasites get transferred to another individual’s body through the blood of the donor that has the infection but is asymptomatic.
If the recipient is a child, an elderly, a pregnant woman, or a person with a weak immune system. Then their chances of experiencing fatal outcomes due to malaria are quite high. However, the transfer of malaria through this process is preventable. The blood transfusion centers that provide this service need to take necessary measures and ensure the donor’s blood is free of any infectious parasites before the transfusion.
Malaria due to organ donation
In organ transplantation, the person who is donating their organ might be infected with malarial parasites. In this process, the organs of one person are removed through a surgical procedure to place them inside the body of a recipient. The transfer of infection can be prevented by evaluating before the surgery. Pre-transplant screening must be done on the donor and the recipients, which will ensure there is no transmission of plasmodium parasites.
Malaria due to sharing of needles and syringes
Sharing contaminated needles and syringes with an individual having this infection will spread the infection to others. The plasmodium parasites multiply inside the red blood cells (RBC) and spend their lifecycle inside. They cause damage to the red blood cells. Which reduces the RBC count in the blood. Reduction in the RBC count in turn causes a decrease in the oxygen levels in the blood, thereby potentiating the risk of hypoxia. Sharing needles, syringes, and other medical equipment must be strictly avoided.
Mother-to-child malaria transmission
The infection due to plasmodium parasites can have a detrimental impact on expectant females. The symptoms and outcomes of malaria can be severe in such cases and there is also a possibility of the risk of transferring the infection to the child developing in the womb. This can prove to be life-threatening for both the mother and the developing child. Therefore, it is necessary to take preventative measures during such times.
Types of malaria parasites
Malaria is a vector-borne disease. The infection is caused by the parasites that belong to five different plasmodium species including – P. vivax, P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale, and P. knowlesi. Out of these species, P. falciparum and P. vivax are the most dangerous due to their rapid health-damaging effects. Malaria due to P. falciparum infection can even lead to death within 24 hours owing to its faster progression.
Signs and symptoms of malaria
If the plasmodium parasites get matured right after entering the host body, the symptoms may appear around a week or two after the invasion. One might experience the symptoms of malaria that include – headache, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, sweating after fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, confusion, etc.
Symptoms of malaria
One might remain asymptomatic till the parasites mature inside the body and begin damaging the red blood cells. Once your immune system senses the presence of active parasites in the bloodstream, it triggers its inflammatory response.
The person may not experience the symptoms right away after the parasite sends the body, generally, it might take a few days from a few days up to 2 weeks. During that period, the parasites grow and multiply inside the red blood cells by invading them. The symptoms are mild during the initial stage, and they can progress to severe illness further.
Parasites damage the red blood cells, lower their count in the blood, and reduce the levels of oxygen in the body.
The infected person experiences several symptoms that are given below:
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Fever and chills
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sweating after fever
- Rapid breathing and heart racing
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Impaired consciousness
If the place where you live is mosquito-prone or you have recently moved to someplace where mosquito-borne diseases are common then, you must take safety measures to reduce your risk of developing the infection. In case you experience the symptoms that are listed above, you must immediately see a doctor to avoid the complications of malaria.