What is Malaria
Malaria is a serious topical disease spread to humans by mosquitoes. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, which carry the responsible Plasmodium parasite.
Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the parasite multiplies in the host’s liver, thereafter infecting and destroying red blood cells. Symptoms depend on the subtype of the parasite, which has caused the infection, ranging from high temperatures, headaches, vomiting, and chills alternating with sweating.
It is important to be aware of its causes and symptoms when you are travelling to countries where there is a high risk of contracting the disease. Malaria is typically found in poor tropical and sub-tropical climates where these parasites can thrive and reproduce. It is a life-threatening condition, which can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated correctly.
Symptoms of malaria can develop as quickly as seven days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito. Depending on the specific parasite, symptoms can start showing between 7-18 days, however in some cases it could remain latent and show even a year later.
Initial symptoms of malaria resemble the flu, they are usually mild and it is hard to identify malaria based on these;
- High temperatures
Often fever comes and goes in 48 hour cycles, where cold and shivering is followed by sweating and fatigue cyclically.
Other symptoms include;
- Muscle pain
- Generally feeling unwell
At an advanced stage, malaria can lead to serious complications such as liver failure, shock, build up of fluid in your lungs, low blood sugar and kidney failure. Most severe forms often result it breathing problems and organ failure.
Malaria is caused when a female Anopheles mosquito, infected with the Plasmodium parasite, bites a human. If a mosquito bites an infected person, it can pick up the parasite and subsequently spread it to others. These mosquitos are ‘night-biting’, usually biting humans between dusk and dawn. The parasite cannot be spread from person to person. Rarely, but malaria can also get spread through shared needles and blood transfusion.
Once bitten, the parasite enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver, where it develops. It then re-enters the bloodstream invading the red blood cells. They grow and multiply in these cells, at regular intervals the infected blood cells burst, releasing more parasites into the blood, causing periodic bouts of fever, chills and sweating.
There are five types of Plasmodium parasite that cause malaria in humans. The symptoms and severity of the condition depends on the type of parasite causing the infection.
Plasmodium falciparum:Mainly found in Africa, it is the most common type of malaria parasite and is responsible for the most malaria deaths worldwide.
Plasmodium vivax:Mainly found in Asia and South America, it causes milder symptoms than falciparum, but can stay in the liver for up to 3 years, resulting in possible relapses.
Plasmodium ovale:Fairly uncommon and usually found in West Africa, it can remain in your liver for several years without producing symptoms.
Plasmodium malariae:It is quite rare and usually only found in Africa.
Plasmodium knowlesi:It is very rare and found only in parts of Southeast Asia.
Early diagnosis is critical to avoid adverse results and possible fatalities.
Your GP will review all your symptoms, along with your medical history and will ask about your recent travels to possible risk areas.
If you are showing distinct symptoms, you might be asked for blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests will show the presence of the parasite, its type, and can also indicate other conditions it may be causing, such as anaemia.
Treatment for malaria aims to eliminate the parasite from the bloodstream. If treated properly and on time, a full recovery can be expected. Medicines used to treat the condition can also be taken as a preventative measure.
We at ‘The Online Surgery’ can prescribe Antimalarial options to treat your condition or as a preventive measure when travelling to risk areas. It is important to take the correct dosage as prescribed and finish the course. Treatment is decided upon based on the type and severity of malaria, where you caught it, your family and medical history, current medication, age and if you are pregnant.
Atovaquone plus proguanil
This should be started one or two days before your trip, and taken for seven days after return. This includes Malarone.
This should be started 2 days before your trip, taken each day you’re at the place and for and four weeks after return.
This should be started three weeks before you your trip, taken each day while you are there and for four weeks after return. This includes Larium.
Chloroquine and proguanil
This is a combination of antimalarial medications. It is not very effective against falciparum, but otherwise effective. This includes Avloclor
Treatment can leave you tired and weak for quite some time