Malaria is generally a mosquito-borne life-threatening disease, which is caused due to parasitic infection. Malarial parasites enter the body through the bite of a mosquito that is infected with parasites. A mosquito bite releases infectious parasites into the bloodstream of the host body, which gives rise to various symptoms. Malaria is not a contagious infection. It is a preventable disease and curable to a great extent.
Symptoms of malaria
Malaria can be indicated by some signs and symptoms such as headache, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, discomfort, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, muscle pain, joint pain, cough, and sweating after fever. The symptoms may appear after a week of getting bitten by the infected mosquito.
Initially, the person experiences mild symptoms, which can get severe with time. As per the Mayo Clinic, some people may experience cycles of malaria “attacks”, wherein they may develop sudden symptoms like chills and shivers, in addition to a high fever. After some time, the fever goes away, and they may sweat out the fever and their body get back to the normal temperature.
Cause of malaria
According to the world health organization (WHO), malaria is spread through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Various species of parasites can contribute to infection, but the one that poses a greater risk is P. falciparum. This parasite can progress rapidly within 24 hours in the host body and is considered to be the deadliest parasite.
When the parasites get injected into the body through a mosquito bite, they get into the bloodstream and reach the liver. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, some types of parasites may live in the host body in a dormant state for several months to about 4 years. They remain in the initial state of hibernation, and once they mature, they get out of the liver and enter the bloodstream and start affecting the red blood cells.
When an infected mosquito feeds on a person infected with malaria, they get infected and when they bite another person, the transferring of blood happens along with malarial parasites. The transmission of parasites can also happen through blood transfusion, sharing of needles, or it can be passed on from a mother to a developing fetus.
Complications of malaria
Malaria can cause severe health complications, which is why it is a fatal disease. It can give rise to several complications that are as follows:
Malarial parasites cause damage to the red blood cells and reduce their levels in the body. Lack of adequate red blood cells hinders the supply of oxygen throughout the body, which contributes to anemia.
Drop in blood sugar levels
Malaria can cause a decline in blood sugar levels, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Low levels of blood sugar can lead to coma and even death.
Malaria can cause respiratory distress that can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. The fluid fills the air sacs, which gives rise to breathing difficulties.
According to the World health organization (WHO), malarial parasites can contribute to cerebral manifestations. The symptoms may appear after a few weeks after an infected mosquito’s bite.
Your healthcare provider will do your physical examination and ask you several questions regarding your symptoms, how long you have been experiencing them, Your travel history, etc. They will record all the information and suggest you get a blood test done, which will be necessary for the confirmation and identification of the type of parasites that have led to the disease. Based on the reports, they will prescribe appropriate treatment.
A blood test will determine the type of parasite that has caused the infection and the degree of damage it has caused. Your healthcare provider will prescribe you some medications that will fight off the parasites by making them weak. The medications suggested will be antimalarial drugs, which can cure the disease.
Moreover, pregnant women must be more careful, because they can pass on the disease to their developing child. This can put the child’s life at high risk. Therefore, preventative techniques for malaria must be implemented very early on during pregnancy.
To prevent mosquito bites and eliminate the risk of developing malaria, one must follow the steps listed below:
- Cover your skin by wearing clothes that have long sleeves and wear full-length pants, in this way, there will be no skin exposure and the mosquitoes will not find a spot to bite, which will keep them away.
- While sleeping, use a mosquito net, which will prevent the mosquitoes from entering inside. Mosquito nets provide excellent protection during your sleep.
- Use a mosquito repellent that is comprised of DEET (diethyltoluamide). Apply it on the skin that is exposed.
- You can also use mosquito repellent sprays on your clothes. Go for the clothing sprays that contain permethrin.
- If you are traveling to a malaria-prone country, then you must take extra precautions. In case you develop some symptoms of malaria, then you should see a doctor immediately. Timely treatment will prevent the risk of complications.
When to see a doctor
In case you have recently moved to a country or place that has a high risk of malaria, and you are experiencing some symptoms of it, then you must immediately see a doctor. Do not wait for the symptoms to become worse, act while the symptoms are still mild. Treatment at the right time will reduce your risk of serious consequences of malaria.