MALARIA: Symptoms, treatment, and prevention
Malaria symptoms can be classified into two categories: uncomplicated and severe malaria.
This is diagnosed when malaria symptoms are present, but there are no signs to indicate severe infection or dysfunction of the vital organs.
This form can become severe malaria if left untreated, or if the host has poor or no immunity.
malaria symptoms typically last 6 to 10 hours and recur every second day. Some strains of the parasite can have a longer cycle or cause mixed symptoms.
As malaria symptoms resemble those of flu, they may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in areas where malaria is less common.
In severe malaria, clinical or laboratory evidence shows signs of vital organ dysfunction.
Symptoms of severe malaria include:
- fever and chills
- impaired consciousness
- prostration, or adopting a prone position
- multiple convulsions
- deep breathing and respiratory distress
- abnormal bleeding and signs of anemia
- clinical jaundice and evidence of vital organ dysfunction
Severe malaria can be fatal without treatment.
Malaria happens when a bite from the female Anopheles mosquito infects the body with Plasmodium. Only the Anopheles mosquito can transmit malaria.
The successful development of the parasite within the mosquito depends on several factors, the most important being humidity and ambient temperatures.
When an infected mosquito bites a human host, the parasite enters the bloodstream and lays dormant within the liver.
The host will have no symptoms for an average of 10.5 days, but the malaria parasite will begin multiplying during this time.
Early diagnosis is critical for a patient’s recovery.
Anyone showing signs of malaria should be tested immediately.
The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly advise confirmation of the parasite through microscopic laboratory testing or by a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), depending on the facilities available.
No combination of symptoms can reliably distinguish malaria from other causes, so a parasitological test is vital for identifying and managing the disease.
In some malaria-endemic areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the disease’s severity can cause mild immunity in a large proportion of the local population.
As a result, some people carry the parasites in their bloodstream but do not fall ill.
Treatment aims to eliminate the Plasmodium parasite from the patient’s bloodstream.
Furthermore, treating those without symptoms may be helpful for the infection to reduce the risk of disease transmission in the surrounding population.
We recommend Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) to treat uncomplicated malaria.
Furthermore, you derive artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua, better known as sweet wormwood. It is known for its ability to rapidly reduce the concentration of Plasmodium parasites in the bloodstream.
ACT is artemisinin is a combination with a partner drug. Furthermore, the role of artemisinin is to reduce the number of parasites within the first 3 days of infection, while the partner drugs eliminate the rest.
Expanding access to ACT treatment worldwide has helped reduce the impact of malaria, but the disease is becoming increasingly resistant to the effects of ACT.
In places where malaria is resistant to ACT, treatment must contain an effective partner drug.
The WHO has warned that no alternatives to artemisinin are likely to become available for several years.
There are also several ways to keep malaria at bay.
Furthermore, advice for travelers that to places where malaria is prevalent should take precautions, for example, using mosquito nets.
Travelers are advised to:
- find out what the risk of malaria is in the country and city or region they are visiting
- ask their doctor what medications they should use to prevent infection in that region
- obtain antimalarial drugs before leaving home, to avoid the risk of buying counterfeit drugs when away
- consider the risk for individual travelers, including children, older people, pregnant women, and the existing medical conditions of any travelers
- ensure they will have access to preventative tools, many of which are available to purchase online. These include insect repellants, insecticides, pre-treated bed nets, and appropriate clothing
- be aware of the symptoms of malaria
In emergency situations, local health authorities in some countries may carry out “fogging,” or spraying areas with pesticides similar to those used in household sprays.
While away, travelers should, where possible, avoid situations that increase the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.
Moreover, precautions include taking an air-conditioned room, not camping by stagnant water, and wearing clothes that cover the body at times when mosquitoes are most likely to be around.
For a year after returning home, the traveler may be susceptible to malaria symptoms. Besides that, donating blood may also not be possible for some time.
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