Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, and is transmitted from person to person through the bite of a particular kind of mosquito. There are several variants of malaria, but the presentations and treatment are similar. There are only about 1,000 cases of malaria each year in the United States. Most of those who are affected have traveled in countries where malaria is a common affliction. In developing countries, malaria disease is a serious problem, causing over a million deaths each year.
Cycle of Malaria
The cycle of malaria begins when an infected, female mosquito bites a human, transmitting the disease. Sporozoites travel to the liver, and multiply in the liver’s cells, developing into merozoites. Once the merozoites leave the liver, they enter the red blood cells, producing more merozoites and spreading more parasites.
The process begins again once a mosquito bites an infected human, and then transmits the disease to another human.
Malaria symptoms usually occur in three distinctive stages. The first is a cold stage, accompanied by shivering. The next malaria symptoms include a hot stage with fever, vomiting and headaches; seizure may be seen in young children. Finally, there is the sweating stage in which the victim begins to sweat profusely, though the fever goes down. Extreme fatigue may also be seen in this final stage of malaria symptoms.
Some cases of severe malaria may occur, resulting in organ failure or blood and metabolic abnormalities. Malaria disease can often be assumed to be a case of the flu or other mild illness. See your doctor if your child develops these malaria symptoms, or if you or those close to you have traveled to a high-risk area. Doctors can perform medical tests to determine if the malaria-causing parasite is present.
Malaria treatment methods should begin promptly in order to avoid life-threatening complications. Medical professionals may prescribe various medications to treat malaria. Your physician will determine the best course of action based on the disease’s severity and progression.
Your doctor will also consider where he thinks the parasite may have originated. Provide as much information as possible, including if you’ve traveled to malaria-prone countries, or other ways your child may have been exposed to the disease.
In addition to these aspects, your age will also play a role in determining malaria treatment methods. Drugs can be given orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of symptoms. Regardless of which malaria treatment you get, expect fatigue and weakness for a few weeks afterwards.
Prevention in Malaria-Prone Situations
There is no vaccine for malaria. In prevention efforts, countries affected by high rates of the disease often use mosquito netting and insecticide sprays to decrease incidents of mosquito bites.
The same drugs that are used to treat malaria can be used to prevent it. See your doctor if you plan to travel in tropic or sub-tropical areas where malaria disease flourishes. Be sure to tell her which region you’ll be traveling to: She’ll prescribe malaria treatment in accordance with the malaria resistance of that area.
As you follow malaria treatment methods, follow the dosage instructions provided to you to ensure the best protection possible. You may need to take the drugs for up to two weeks prior to your trip, during your travels and for four weeks upon your return.
Pregnant women should avoid traveling to malaria-prone regions, as the disease can be spread to the unborn baby.
Centers for Disease Control Staff. (2008). Malaria: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Malaria. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/malaria/DS00475.
World Health Organization Staff. (2008). Malaria: Quick facts. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disea.ses Web site: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Malaria/understandingMalaria/facts.htm.