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Malaria is a blood disease caused by a parasite that
is transmitted from human-to-human by the
Anopheles mosquito. Malaria is a preventable and
If malaria is diagnosed and treated early on, the duration of the infection can be
considerably shortened, which in turn reduces the risk of complications and
The word malaria comes from 18th century Italian mala meaning "bad" and aria
meaning "air". Most likely, the term was first used by Dr. Francisco Torti, Italy,
when people thought the disease was caused by foul air in marshy areas.
It was not until 1880 that scientists discovered that malaria was a parasitic
disease which is transmitted by the anopheles mosquito. The mosquito infects
the host with a one-cell parasite called plasmodium. Not long after they, found
out that Malaria is transmitted from person-to-person through the bite of the
female mosquito, which needs blood for her eggs.
Approximately 40% of the total global population is at risk of Malaria infection.
During the 20th century the disease was effectively eliminated in the majority of
non-tropical countries. Today Malaria causes over 350 million human acute
illnesses, as well as at least one million deaths annually. The anopheles mosquito
exists in most tropical and many sub-tropical countries of Latin America and the
Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, and Asia.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), the majority of Malaria deaths
occur among children in sub-Saharan Africa, killing an African child every 30
seconds. Not only is Malaria associated with poverty, it is also a cause of poverty
and an important obstacle to economic development.
Interfering with malaria's genetic cloaking device may provide cure
for the disease - researchers from The Hebrew University-Hadassah
Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel, believe they have come very close to
finding a cure for malaria. They have discovered a genetic cloaking
device used by the parasite to evade the human immune system so
that it can establish infection. If a treatment can be devised which
interferes with the cloaking device's DNA, the immune system would
then have a chance to eliminate the infection early on.
There are five types of Malaria:
Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax) - milder form of the disease, generally not fatal.
However, infected people still need treatment because their untreated
progress can also cause a host of health problems. This type has the widest
geographic distribution globally. About 60% of infections in India are due to P.
vivax. This parasite has a liver stage and can remain in the body for years
without causing sickness. If the patient is not treated, the liver stage may re-
activate and cause relapses - malaria attacks - after months, or even years
Plasmodium malariae (P. malariae) - milder form of the disease, generally
not fatal. However, the infected human still needs treatment because no
treatment can also lead to a host of health problems. This type of parasite has
been known to stay in the blood of some people for several decades.
Plasmodium ovale (P. ovale) - milder form of the disease, generally not
fatal. However, the infected human still needs to be treated because it may
progress and cause a host of health problems. This parasite has a liver stage
and can remain in the body for years without causing sickness. If the
patient is not treated, the liver stage may re-activate and cause relapses -
malaria attacks - after months, or even years without symptoms.
Plasmodium falciparum (P. faliparum) - the most serious form of the
disease. It is most common in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Current
data indicates that cases are now being reported in areas of the world
where this type was thought to have been eradicated.
Plasmodium knowlesi (P. knowlesi) - causes malaria in macaques but can
also infect humans.
MODE OT TRANSMISSION
The female Anopheles mosquito transmits the parasite to a human when it
takes a blood meal - it bites the human in order to feed on blood. Only the
female Anopheles mosquito can transmit malaria, and it must have been
infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected human.
When the mosquito bites an infected person a minute quantity of the
malaria (plasmodium) parasite in the blood is taken. Approximately one
week later that same infected mosquito takes its next blood meal. The
plasmodium parasites mix with the mosquito's saliva and are injected into
the host (human being).
Human-to-human transmission of Malaria
As the parasite exists in human red blood cells, malaria can be passed on from one
person to the next through organ transplant, shared use of needles/syringes, and
blood transfusion. An infected mother may also pass malaria on to her baby during
delivery (birth) - this is called 'congenital malaria'.
You cannot catch Malaria by just sitting next to an infected person, or breathing in
next to them when they cough and sneeze.
In areas where Malaria is endemic people may have immunity or semi-immunity,
and therefore have either no symptoms or few symptoms. The severity of the
Malaria depends on three things: 1. The type of parasite. 2. Your immunity. 3.
Whether you still have your spleen.
Early stage symptoms of Malaria
A high temperature (fever)
Symptoms may occur in cycles, each time they come they might do so at different
levels of severity. How long symptoms last may also vary, depending on each cycle.
However, at the beginning of the illness, symptoms may not follow this typical
Other common symptoms may include:
Very rare symptoms may include:
Impairment of brain function
Impairment of spinal cord function
Loss of consciousness
People who are infected with the P. falciparum parasite and become ill generally
have much more serious symptoms, which may become fatal.
What is the incubation period of Malaria?
Incubation period refers to how long it takes from initial infection to the
appearance of symptoms. This generally depends on the type of parasite:
P. falciparum - 9 to 14 days
P. vivax - 12 to 18 days
P. ovale - 12 to 18 days
P. malariae - 18 to 40 days
However, incubation periods can vary from as little as 7 days, to several months
for P. vivax and P. ovale. If you are taking medication to prevent infection
(chemoprophylaxis) the incubation period is usually longer.
It is important that a doctor eliminates other possible diseases or conditions
which may have similar symptoms to Malaria. These include:
Meningitis, and other bacterial infections
Non-malarial parasitic infections
The ways of preventing malaria are: Know that it only takes one bite from an infected
mosquito to transmit malaria. Be savvy in avoiding exposure to these potentially
dangerous, disease-borne insects.
Apply insect repellent to your skin. DEET lasts up to 12 hours, so use it sparingly and
only on exposed skin. Avoid the use of perfumes and colognes.
Use bed-nets when sleeping in areas infested with mosquitoes. Additionally, use
insecticides and flying insect sprays to reduce the number of mosquitoes in areas
where you will be spending a significant amount of time.
When possible, avoid camping or spending prolonged amounts of time in areas
where standing water is present. Keep pots and pans empty of water. Open vessels for
drinking water should be covered. Mosquitoes use areas of standing water to lay their
Try to plan activities that permit you to be in protected areas between
dusk and dawn .The mosquito that transmits malaria attacks at night.
Wear long-sleeved clothing and take preventitive medicine. If you know
you will be traveling in areas where malaria is prevalent, ask your doctor for
antimalarial drugs. Some tablets can be taken once a day, and some once a
week. You will need to start taking the medicine before you leave, throughout
your trip and continue on your return.