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Malaria: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About malaria

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a unicellular parasite named Plasmodium and is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is characterised by high temperature with chills and headache. It is a treatable disease; however timely detection and treatment of malaria is essential to prevent its fatal complications.

Malaria: Incidence, age and sex

Malaria is one of the most common mosquito borne disease which is encountered in the tropical and the sub tropical regions. It is fairly prevalent in certain regions of Asia and Africa. It can be seen in any age group and occurs equally in men and women. About 300 to 400 million individuals get affected every year.

Signs and symptoms of malaria: Diagnosis

The clinical features of malaria include high fever with chills and rigours. This is accompanied by severe headache, nausea and vomiting. The fever characteristically appears after every 1, 2 or 3 days, depending upon the offending species of plasmodium. Longstanding malarial infection may also affect the liver, resulting in jaundice (yellowish discolouration of skin and white of eye).

A detailed history especially travel history along with physical examination may help detect malaria which can be confirmed by a thick and thin film blood test.

Causes and prevention of malaria

Malaria can be caused by any of the four species of Plasmodium namely Plasmodium vivax, P. falciparum, P. ovale and P. malariae. This infection is carried from human to human through the female Anopheles mosquito. Such mosquitoes breed in dirty water and are found abundantly during rainy season. The humans get infected through the bite of an infected mosquito which transmits the parasite from saliva of mosquito to the circulatory system in humans. The parasite then travels to the liver where it matures and subsequently invades the red blood cells. It then multiplies in the red blood cells, eventually rupturing them and thereby releasing multiple plasmodium into the bloodstream.

Preventive measures like wearing full-sleeved clothes to avoid mosquito bites, using insect repellents and elimination of mosquito-breeding sites may help in minimizing the transmission of the virus. Sometimes prophylactic medications are also advised to individuals travelling to endemic areas. Such medications are fairly effective in preventing malarial infection.

Malaria: Complications

Malaria is a serious disease which if left untreated, may lead to fatal complications. Jaundice, liver failure and anaemia are fairly common complications. Longstanding or recurrent malarial episodes may cause increased destruction of red blood cells, resulting in anaemia. If malaria is caused by Plasmodium falciparum, it may progress to a fatal condition called ‘cerebral malaria’ which affects the brain and may finally result in death.

Malaria: Treatment

Malaria can be effectively treated with anti-malarial medications namely chloroquine, mefloquine and primaquine. In resistant cases, alternate medications can be prescribed. Symptomatic relief may be provided by antipyretics which are prescribed for high temperature and malaise.