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Malaria

Malaria

Introduction

Malaria is one of the most life-threatening diseases that is caused by parasitic protozoans. It is transmitted by the bite of Anopheles mosquito that is infected by the parasite. The mosquitoes carry Plasmodium parasite and release the parasite into the bloodstream when they bite humans.

The symptoms of malaria include fever, vomiting, headache, and fatigue. In some severe cases, malaria can cause yellowish skin, seizures, coma, or more dreadful, death.

In the absence of proper treatment, malaria can recur after a few months.

Cause of malaria

The causative agent behind malaria is Plasmodium parasite which is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito infected by Plasmodium bites the human and the parasite present in the saliva of the mosquito enters the body of the person. The parasite enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver. The liver is the site for reproduction and maturation of the parasite. It stays there for several days until they are mature, once mature, they re-enter the bloodstream and target the red blood cells. The blood cells get infected within 48 to 72 hours. After getting infected, the blood cells begin to multiply at a great pace. The infected cells burst. The cycle continues and symptoms occur. The symptoms manifest in cycles and begin to occur 10 to 15 days after the mosquito bite.

There are five Plasmodium species that can cause malaria including P. vivax, P. falciparum, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. knowlesi. The majority of deaths are caused by the infection due to P. falciparum.P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale lead to milder malaria. P. knowlesi rarely leads to malaria in humans.

There can be other causes of malaria too.

  • A mother infected by malaria parasite can pass malaria to the child at birth. This form of malaria is called as congenital malaria.
  • As malaria can be transmitted through blood, it can be transmitted via blood transfusion, organ transplant, or using shared syringes or needles.

Prevalence

Malaria is prevalent in the tropical, as well as sub-tropical, climates. The parasites can easily survive in these climates.

The infection is common in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. According to the reports, about 216 million cases of malaria were reported worldwide causing in around 731,000 deaths. Around 90 percent of cases, as well as deaths, occurred in Africa.

In the United States of America, CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) reports around 1,700 malaria cases, every year. The majority of malaria cases occur in the people who travel to the countries where this disease is prevalent.

Malaria is associated with poverty. It is a curse for the economic development of the country.

Symptoms of malaria

Malaria symptoms occur from 10 to 28 days after the exposure to the infection. In some cases, the parasite enters the body but stay dormant for a long duration of time and symptoms may not appear for some time.

The symptoms of malaria are:

  • High-grade fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Anaemia
  • Convulsions
  • Blood in stools
  • Coma

Diagnosis of malaria

The diagnosis of malaria is done on the basis of physical examination and lab tests. The doctor reviews the health history and examines the enlarged liver or spleen.

To confirm the diagnosis, the doctorasks the patient to undergo blood tests which help to determine the type of malaria,presence of anaemia due to malaria, and if vital organs are affected by malaria.

Complications of malaria

Malaria can lead to many life-threatening complications. They include,

  • Cerebral malaria or swelling of the vessels present in the brain
  • Accumulation of fluids in lungs leading to pulmonary oedema and other breathing problems
  • Anaemia due to the destruction of the red blood cells
  • Organ failure (kidney, liver, or spleen)
  • Low blood sugar

Treatment of malaria

Malaria is a dreadful disease. When the causative agent is Plasmodium falciparum, it can be life-threatening. The recommended malaria treatment is a combination of different anti-malarial medications. Chloroquine in adequate dosage is the drug of choice. The second line of medication includes mefloquine, sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine or lumefantrine.However, in resistant cases other drugs are prescribed.

There are medications available for preventing malaria in travellers to the areas where malaria is prevalent. Doses of combination medications sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine are suggested in infants and post the 1sttrimester of pregnancy in the areas with high rates of infection.

Many malarial parasites are resistant to the anti-malarial medications, for instance, chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite has spread to many malarial areas. In some areas of Southeast Asia, the malarial parasites have developed resistance against artemisinin.

In certain infections caused by Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale, the parasite stays in the body for a longer duration of time and re-activate after a dormant stage. The infection relapses. In these cases, the doctors prescribe second medication in order to prevent the relapse.

Prevention of malaria

There is no vaccine against malaria.

If you are traveling to any place where malaria is prevalent or if you live in an area where malaria infection is common, you must consult your doctor. The doctor will prescribe medications to prevent malaria which needs to be taken weekly.

If you live in an area where malaria is common, you must talk to your doctor about long-term prevention of malaria.

The best way to prevent bacteria is to prevent mosquito bites. Here are certain preventive measures that you must consider preventing mosquito bites.

  • Sleep under the mosquito net to prevent the mosquitoes from biting you. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets are effective.
  • Use mosquito repellents. For individual protection, repellents based on DEET o picaridin are considered as the most effective.
  • Indoor residual spraying (IRS) is also a very effective measure to control mosquitoes.
  • Do not allow mosquitoes to breed in your surroundings. Stagnant water is the place where mosquitoes breed. Do not allow water to accumulate in your surroundings. Keep the surroundings clean.

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