According to the World health organization (WHO) estimation, in the year 2021, there were around 247 million cases of malaria recorded worldwide. In the same year, the death toll due to malaria stood up to 619000. The reports further revealed that almost half of the world’s population was susceptible to malaria in that particular year.
The most affected was the African region, since, out of 247 million malaria cases recorded globally, 95% were solely from this region. While the death toll in this region stood up to a whopping 96% of worldwide malarial deaths, it is estimated that 80% of them were children below 5 years of age.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a vector-borne infection that happens after the bite of an infected mosquito. The bite of the mosquito releases infectious parasites in the bloodstream of the host. These parasites get lodged in the liver, where they may remain in a dormant state for a few weeks to a few years. They might become mature at any point and enter the bloodstream again. They affect your health by destroying the red blood cells, which gives rise to various symptoms.
What causes malaria?
A mosquito bite is the most common cause of malaria. The carrier of malarial parasites, an infected female Anopheles mosquito, sucks the blood and injects these parasites into the bloodstream through a bite. The parasites injected within the bloodstream are in the form of sporozoites, which quickly enter the human liver and get settled in there.
These sporozoites become mature and multiply asexually within the liver over a week or so. They start leaving the liver and reaching out into the bloodstream. After entering the bloodstream, these parasites attack and invade the red blood cells, multiply inside them, and lead to their damage, this causes a drop in the red blood cell (RBC) count.
Due to low RBC count, the human body gets deprived of adequate oxygen, because red blood cells are the supplier of oxygen to the entire body and the decline in the RBC count lowers the levels of oxygen in the body. This potentiates the risk of a condition known as hypoxia, which can be indicated through symptoms like breathing problems, confusion, restlessness, rapid heart rate, and bluish skin.
How does malaria spread?
The primary cause of malaria is mosquitoes. An infected female Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of malarial parasites, called Plasmodium. Plasmodium parasites are of five different types, that include – P. vivax, P. Knowles, P. malariae, P. ovale, and P. falciparum. Out of these five species, P-falciparum and P. vivax pose the greatest threat due to their ability to progress rapidly and cause death within 24 hours if left untreated.
Those who live in areas prone to mosquito-prone areas such as marshlands, forests, nearby ponds, lakes, etc. are at a greater risk of developing malarial infection easily. Some African countries are accounted for nearly half of the malaria cases spanning the world.
Sharing of needles
Apart from mosquito bites, malaria can also be transmitted due to the sharing of needles and other medical equipment with a malaria-infected person. Medical equipment like needles and syringes etc. contain the blood strains of the infected person, and using the same on a healthy person will cause the transmission of the blood contaminated with the malaria parasites.
It is a surgical procedure that involves the exchange of organs from one human body to another. During this, the donor might transfer the malarial parasites to the recipient. This is why it is necessary to detect the presence of parasites through some tests before conducting the transplantation surgery.
The donor may have malarial parasites within their body, but they may remain asymptomatic. The recipient might receive contaminated blood and catch the infection. Therefore, before carrying out the transfusion procedure, the blood-collecting centers must check the blood sample of the donor.
The parasites can also reach the placenta and cause harm to the developing fetus. This can potentiate the risk of fetal loss, maternal anemia, premature delivery, and improper fetal growth. This puts both mother and child at life-threatening high risk.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
It might take some time for the symptoms to appear. It takes around a week or two for the parasites to grow and multiply and start attacking the red blood cells, which is when the immune system kicks in and starts its action. Meanwhile, the person may develop symptoms such as:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Feeling of discomfort
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Breathing difficulties
How to prevent malaria?
If you are planning to travel to some city or country where malaria is common, then you must see your doctor and ask them to prescribe you some medications that will eliminate the risk of malaria. Besides, you must follow some steps to ensure you remain safe from mosquito bites. WHO’s recommendations for preventing malaria are as follows:
- Carry a mosquito net to use while sleeping in a mosquito-prone area.
- Always use mosquito repellents that have DEET, IR3535, or Icaridin.
- Bare body parts are an invitation to mosquitoes. So, cover yourself by wearing full-length sleeves and long pants.
- Make use of window screens to keep the mosquitoes out.