How common and dangerous is malaria

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.

  1. World Malaria Report 2020: 20 years of global progress and challenges, Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO
  2. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website   https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/malaria/index.html 9th October, 2021, 02:04 am GMT 
  3. Malaria Case Management: Operations Manual (2009) WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.  page 7
  4. Standard Treatment Guidelines (2017) 4th Edition, Ministry of Health Ghana, page 482 

WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:

Maxwell
Maxwell Kwadwo Agyemang, Pharm D

Pharmacist, MPSGH

Maxwell K. Agyemang is a pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. His love for science and its application to create a healthier society knows no bounds. His other passion lies in empowering the young generation on the use of social media as an e-learning platform to solve everyday challenges.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxwell-agyemang-pharmd-640550116

Chief Editor at Wapomu.com

MPSGH, MRPharmS, MPhil.

Isaiah Amoo is a practicing community pharmacist in good standing with the Pharmacy Council of Ghana who has meaningful experience in academia and industrial pharmacy. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, England, UK and currently pursuing his overseas pharmacy assessment programme (MSc) at Aston University, UK. He had his MPhil degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He has about 5 years’ experience as a community Pharmacist and has also taught in academic institutions like KNUST, Kumasi Technical University, Royal Ann College of Health, and G-Health Consult. He likes to spend time reading medical research articles and loves sharing his knowledge with others.

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