Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the plasmodium parasite which is commonly borne by the female anopheles mosquito. Millions of malaria cases are reported each year by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although, there has been a general reduction in the number of malaria cases and deaths in most parts of the world now compared to two decades ago, malaria is quite common in developing countries like Ghana; accounting for a major cause of death in children under 5 years. It can be prevented or treated with access to simple and affordable interventions including the use of insecticides, immunization, and antimalarial drugs.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Malaria?
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infection. People with Malaria often have a fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. Early treatment of malaria is crucial, especially in children, because a delay in treatment could result in complications and death. Malaria is classified as either simple (uncomplicated) malaria or severe (complicated) malaria based on the clinical severity.
How can you get Malaria?
Malaria is caused by a parasite that commonly infects the female Anopheles mosquito. You can get malaria when the parasite is introduced into your bloodstream following a bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito.
What are the signs and symptoms of Malaria?
Malaria can mimic virtually anything. But people with malaria often experience headache, cough, fatigue, chills, generalized body pains, and abdominal pain (children).
How is it diagnosed?
Malaria can be suspected if a patient experiences the signs and symptoms mentioned above. However, in order to confirm the diagnosis of malaria, laboratory tests such as rapid diagnostic tests and blood film must demonstrate the malaria parasites or their components. Other specialized tests such as PCR are also available.
Can it be cured? What is the treatment?
Yes, it can be cured. Treatment is aimed at eradicating the parasite and preventing death from complications. Effective treatment ideally within 24 hours is very necessary to ensure survival. The use of antimalarial, fever, and pain control drugs are the mainstay treatment for simple malaria.
Quite aggressive therapy which includes the use of replacement fluids, blood transfusion, and oxygen supplementation may be used in life-threatening situations.
One common question that people treating malaria tend to ask is “can I take iron preparations or multivitamins together with my antimalarial drugs?”. If you are interested in knowing that then check this post out.
Can Malaria kill you?
Malaria could cause death if treatment is delayed or left untreated. According to the WHO, about 400,000 people died from Malaria in 2019.
Who is at the greatest risk for complications from Malaria?
Children below 5 years of age, pregnant women, sickle cell disease patients, and non-immune travelers moving to malaria-endemic areas are vulnerable groups with the greatest risk for complications from Malaria.
How can you prevent Malaria infection?
The best preventive measure is to avoid contact with a female Anopheles mosquito infected with the parasite.
The following include measures recommended by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent Malaria infection:
- Using insect repellent when outdoors
- Wearing protective clothing (avoid dark colored clothing)
- Staying in an air-conditioned or well screened areas
- Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net.
- Non-immune travelers to malaria endemic areas should seek advice from their public health institutions on appropriate preventive measures to ensure protection in all areas.