Malaria is a significant and sometimes deadly disease that is caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of female mosquito that feeds on humans. These deadly annoying creatures cannot survive without a host. The most fatal, but preventable kind of these pesky little creatures is called plasmodium falciparum.
Plasmodium falciparum is the parasite that causes most of the total malaria deaths every year.
Why Is Malaria So Dangerous?
Plasmodium falciparum that causes most malaria deaths is so dangerous because it affects the way red blood cells operate in the body. When red blood cells are infected with Plasmodium falciparum, they become “sticky.
Since these red blood cells are “sticky,” as they pass through the small blood vessels inside the body’s organs, they become stuck to the walls of the blood vessels. This is the process called “sequestration”.
When red blood cells get stuck inside the blood vessels, they slow the flow of blood to the organs in the body. This situation can lead to more complications in the body. When sequestration occurs inside those blood vessels that are in the brain, it is called ‘cerebral malaria’.
Unfortunately, such complications can include impaired consciousness, coma and even death.
Interestingly, when diagnosed and treated promptly, most cases of plasmodium falciparum can be taken care of quickly and effectively without any kinds of complications, using oral medication. On the other hand, the parasite can reproduce pretty quickly. That means that cases of malaria can become more severe within days or even hours.
That being the case, if plasmodium falciparum infection is suspected, and especially in high-risk individuals like young children, pregnant women and individuals with weak immune systems, diagnosis should be looked for immediately so that appropriate treatment can be achieved.
How Many People Are Affected by Malaria Worldwide?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, globally, in 2014 alone, there were 198 million clinical cases of malaria. Out of the 198 million reported cases of malaria, 500,000 people died of malaria. Sadly, most of them were young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Due to the unrelenting threat of malaria, more partners and resources have steadily increased malaria control efforts. The increase in interventions has saved 3.3 million lives globally and cut malaria mortality by 45%. This has given hopes to some for the elimination and ultimate eradication of malaria.
The Impact Of Malaria
Malaria is most common in poor, tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In many of those countries that are affected, malaria is a leading cause of illness and death. Most of the deaths from malaria or about 80 percent, happen in just 14 countries.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the countries most affected by the impact of malaria. In South-East Asia, India has the highest burden of the disease.
Additionally, in areas where malaria transmission is very high, the most vulnerable groups are young children.
A child still dies every minute from malaria!
Young people are easy to catch malaria because they have not developed immunity to malaria yet. The second group of people that easy to catch malaria are pregnant women that their immunity has been decreased by pregnancy.
When you look at the full impact of malaria, approximately half the world’s population, across 104 countries, are at risk of contracting malaria. Malaria comes at a HUGE cost to individuals, families, communities, and nations.
Considering how serious the illness and death that malaria causes, you can appreciate why the disease is such a great drain on the economies of many affected nations.
Additionally, since most of the countries where malaria are very common are already among the poorer nations, the disease maintains a vicious cycle of disease and poverty
Why Is Malaria Very Common In Africa?
The survival of a parasite depends on the temperature of its environment. The parasites that cause malaria flourish in areas where the temperature is warm. The climate in sub-Saharan Africa is the perfect environment for malarial parasites and the anopheles mosquitoes to reproduce.
The climate is so perfect for them to bloom and go through their life-cycles rapidly, steps necessary for infection. The temperature in this Tropical region never drops to a level that the parasites cannot survive.
Therefore, the parasites actively seek to infect their victims all year-round.
How Is Malaria Transmitted?
The main way that people get malaria is by being bitten by an infective female Anopheles mosquito. It is onlyAnopheles mosquitoes that can transmit malaria to transmit malaria, they must have been infected through a previous blood meal that is taken from an infected person.
When a mosquito bites a person that is infected with the malaria parasite, a small amount of blood is drawn from the body and it contains microscopic malaria parasites. After about a week when the mosquito takes its next blood meal, these parasites mix with the mosquito’s saliva. This deadly combination is what is injected into the person being bitten.
Since malaria parasites are found in the red blood cells of an infected person, that is why malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes that are contaminated with blood.
Mothers can transmit malaria to an unborn infant before or during delivery (“congenital” malaria).
When those deadly parasites get into their victims body, are absorbed by liver cells. As they stay in the liver, they multiply very quickly and can remain dormant for up to many years. When they finally burst into the bloodstream, they reproduce and destroy red blood cells.
What Are Symptoms Of Malaria?
The symptoms of malaria are often very similar to those of the flu. These symptoms include chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and fatigue. It is very important to note that if the malaria is not treated immediately, it becomes severe malaria.
When malaria becomes severe, the affected person begins to experience worse symptoms like coma, difficulty breathing, low blood sugar, and severe anemia. If severe malaria is not treated, it can lead to death. Children are especially easy victims since their immune systems are not developed.
Who Is At Risk Of Catching Malaria?
Any breathing human can get malaria.
However, most of the cases of malaria occur with people who live in countries where malaria transmission is common. Individuals that live in countries where there are no cases of malaria can become infected when they travel to countries with malaria or through a blood transfusion.
Additionally, an infected mother can transmit malaria to her infant before or during delivery.
Who Are At Most Risk Of Getting And Dying From Malaria?
Plasmodium falciparum is the type of malaria that most often causes severe and life-threatening malaria; this parasite is very common in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, people who are heavily exposed to the bites of mosquitoes that are infected with Plasmodium falciparum are most at risk of dying from malaria. Another group of people who are at the risk of catching and dying from malaria are young children and pregnant women.
Travelers from areas with no malaria and going to areas where malaria is common, are more likely to become very sick and die.
Further, poor people living in rural areas and who lack access to health care are at greater risk for this disease. As a result of all these factors, sadly, it is estimated that 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of these deaths occur in children under 5 years of age.
Should Infants And Children Be Given Anti-Malarial Drugs?
Yes, but not all types of malaria drugs. Children of any age can get malaria and any child traveling to an area where malaria transmission is common should use the recommended prevention measures. Such measures often include the use of an antimalarial drug for the treatment of malaria.
However, some anti-malarial drugs are not suitable for children. Doses are based on the child’s weight.
Wasn’t Malaria Wiped Out Years Ago?
No, that is not true!. Eradication means that no more malaria exists in the world. Is that the case, though? True, malaria has been eliminated from many developed countries with temperate climates.
However, the disease remains a major health problem in many developing countries, in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.
Malaria’s eradication campaign that was started in the 1950s, failed woefully globally because of many problems. Such problems include the resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides that are used to kill them, the resistance of malaria parasites to drugs that are used in fighting them, and administrative issues.
In addition, the eradication campaign never involved most of Africa, where malaria is the most common.
When Should Malaria Be Treated?
The disease should be treated as soon as it is diagnosed, before it becomes serious and life-threatening. There are many effective antimalarial drugs that are available, and they should be taken early on.
What Is The Treatment For Malaria?
Malaria can be cured with prescription drugs. The type of drugs and length of treatment depend on the type of malaria, where the person was infected, their age, whether they are pregnant, and how sick they are at the start of treatment. With public support, health organizations are working to make sure that malaria is eradicated.
Zeramal®is an effective anti-malaria drug with formulations for infants, children and adults.