What is Malaria?
Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted through mosquito bites. Usually, a malaria sufferer will feel extremely sick, and experience high fever and chills. Although cases of this disease are rare in temperate climates, malaria cases are common in tropical and subtropical countries.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), based on data from the World Malaria Report in December 2019, there were 228 million cases of malaria in 2018. This data shows an increase in cases since 2017 where there were 231 million cases. The estimated number of deaths from malaria reached 405,000 in 2018 and 416,000 in 2017.
Children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to malaria. They account for about 67% (272,000 children) of all malaria death cases worldwide.
Malaria is easily transmitted through mosquito bites. Although it can be fully treated with the right treatment, this disease can be fatal and life-threatening. Therefore, take preventive measures if you travel to a region that has many cases of malaria. It is recommended to take medications before, during, and after your trip.
Causes of Malaria
The primary cause of malaria is a mosquito bite that is infected with the Plasmodium parasite. There are four types of malaria parasites that can infect humans: Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. falciparum.
P. falciparum causes more severe diseases and the infected people have a higher risk of death. An infected mother can also pass the disease on to her baby. This is known as congenital malaria from parents.
Malaria Transmission Cycle
- A mosquito can become infected if it bites a human infected with malaria.
- If the mosquito bites you later, it can transmit malaria parasites to you.
- Once the parasites enter your body, they will enter your liver and nest there for some time.
- When parasites ripen, they will leave your liver and infect red blood cells. This occurs when people begin to feel the symptoms of malaria.
- Then the disease will be transmitted to others through mosquito bites.
Since the parasites that cause malaria can affect red blood cells, people with risk factors of malaria from exposure to the blood of infected people include:
- From the mother to the fetus in her womb.
- People who receive blood transfusions from malaria sufferers
- Sharing syringes used to inject illegal drugs
When to See a Doctor for Malaria
To diagnose malaria, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and a blood test. A blood test is the only accurate way to diagnose malaria. The blood test results will help your doctor by showing:
- The presence of parasites in your lood.
- The type of malaria parasite that causes malaria symptoms.
A series of other blood tests can also help determine if the disease causes serious complications. Some blood tests show results after 15 minutes, but some other blood tests may take several days.
Symptoms of Malaria
Symptoms of malaria usually develop within 10 days to 4 weeks after being infected with the parasite. In some cases, symptoms may not appear even after months. The reason is because some malaria parasites can enter the body and nest in the liver organs, but are inactive for a long period of time. Malaria infection is generally characterized by the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Shivering and chills
- Muscle and joint pain.
- Chest and abdominal pain.
If you feel any of the above symptoms of malaria, please contact your doctor immediately for appropriate treatment.
Treatment for Malaria
Malaria is a disease that can be life-threatening, particularly if you are infected with the parasite P. falciparum. Treatment options for malaria are usually available in hospitals. Your doctor will prescribe medications based on the type of parasite that is in your body.
In some cases, prescribed medications may not eliminate infection due to parasitic resistance to the drug. If this happens, your doctor may need to use more than one medication or replace the drug altogether to treat your condition.
Moreover, some other types of malaria parasites such as P. vivax and P. ovale are able to nest in your liver organs and live for long periods of time. Then the parasite will be active and cause a recurrence of infection. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent malaria from relapsing in the future.
The most common types of antimalarial medications most likely prescribed by your doctor cover:
- Artemisinin (ACT) combination therapy. This is the first treatment for malaria sufferers. There are several types of artemisinin, such as artemether-lumefantrine and artesunat-amodiakuin. Each artemisinin is a combination of two or more drugs that work against malaria parasites in different ways.
- Chloroquine Phosphate. This is a treatment prescribed to kill parasites sensitive to drugs. However, these drugs become ineffective for killing malaria parasites that are immune to chloroquine.
There are also other antimalarial medications, such as:
- Primaquine phosphate.
- Quinine sulfate and doxycycline.
- Kombinasi atovaquone and proguanil.
New antimalarial drugs are still being developeed with the primary aim to kill parasites that are immune to malaria drugs.
Treatment Cost for Malaria
Your doctor will give antimalarial drugs that serve to kill parasites. Treatment cost for malaria depends on the type of antimalarial medications given, the types of parasites that enter your body, the symptoms, and your overall condition.
For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for malaria at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Malaria
To this day, no vaccine has been found to prevent malaria. You may only be prescribed medication to prevent malaria. The method of taking these medications is the same as that used to treat malaria sufferers, i.e. must be taken before, during, and after traveling from areas where there are many cases of malaria.
Consult your doctor on long-term prevention methods if you live in an area where there are many cases of malaria. Sleeping under mosquito nets can prevent mosquito bites. Covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing or using insect spray can also help prevent infection.
Home Remedies for Malaria
Self-treatment of malaria should be done immediately if symptoms begin to recur, such as fever, chills, or symptoms of influenza-like diseases. You should make sure to consume medications recommended by the doctor, such as atovaquone, proguanil or artemether, and lumefantrine.
Have more questions about malaria? Write them down in the comment section below or contact Smarter Health.