What is Malaria?
Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. While malaria is most commonly found in tropical climates, it can be found anyplace where mosquitoes are found.
Specifically, malaria is an infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites from the genus Plasmodium. The most serious form is known as plasmodium falciparum. The most common transmitter of malaria is the female anopheles mosquito as anopheles mosquitoes are the only mosquitoes that can transmit malaria.
The numbers of diagnosed cases of malaria per year are upwards of 400 million making it one of the greatest health threats worldwide. Untreated, malaria can be fatal. With proper treatment, the chances of a complete recovery are nearly 100%. While malaria is a tremendous problem worldwide, it is one that can be treated successfully.
How Can Malaria Be Prevented?
The prevention methods for malaria are simple to understand but often difficult to implement. In many areas the simple act of draining standing water pools is enough to prevent many cases per year. Mosquitoes need standing water to breed so draining all collection points for standing water will help curtail the life cycle of the mosquito.
In more tropical climates that make it impossible to drain all possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes, nets treated with insecticide are placed around beds. Because mosquitoes feed at night, humans are most vulnerable to bites when they are asleep. Not only do insecticide treated nets protect those in the bed, they also kill all mosquitoes that come into contact with the net. The recommendation that these nets be retreated every 6 months makes it troublesome for those in more remote areas, however the nets themselves are still better protection than nothing at all.
Obviously wide spraying of mosquito repellants works to reduce the incidence of malaria, but this is expensive and can be harmful to both plant and animal life in the sprayed areas.
Without a doubt the best method for the prevention of malaria would be via a vaccination. Unfortunately despite the active research into a vaccination, such a remedy currently eludes medical science. Perhaps in the near future a vaccine will be developed. A vaccination for malaria would ease a great deal of suffering worldwide.
For those individuals that are traveling to areas known to have malaria, there are various medications that can be prescribed to travelers to prevent malaria. These anti-malarial drugs are used while traveling in regions that are prone to malaria outbreaks.
What are the Symptoms of Malaria?
The initial symptoms of malaria might be mistaken for the flu. The symptoms can begin to present themselves anywhere between 7 and 40 days after being bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito. The symptoms themselves include fever, joint pain, sweats, headache nausea and vomiting. Because these symptoms are common to other infectious and viral diseases it is important that you see a doctor for a diagnosis and to begin treatment.
How is Malaria Treated?
The treatment for malaria will be determined based on test results that confirm which strain that you have contracted and your health at the time that the diagnosis is made. Treatment will have to be altered slightly is you have certain preexisting medical conditions such as an autoimmune disorder are pregnant or nursing.
It is not unusual for several blood tests to be required during the course of treatment. In some cases your doctor may choose to do daily blood smears to follow the progress of both the infection and the treatment.
There are several medications used for treating malaria. The choice of these drugs will be decided by your physician and are determined based on various health factors, the specific strain of malaria and the progress of the infection at the time you seek treatment.
Because some medications are better than others for treating certain strains of malaria and because those strains are more predominant in some areas than others, it is very important that you inform your doctor in which areas you were traveling. With that information your doctor can tailor your treatment with ease.
After the initial treatment for malaria the average patient will need to continue treatment via medication for a set period of time as determined by the patients physician to prevent recurrence and any complications. This treatment is wholly dependent on the strain of malaria and the severity of the initial reaction to the disease.
Malaria is a very serious infectious disease than can be fatal when not treated. Because malaria is so easily contracted in certain regions it is best to take precautions when traveling in those areas. When contracted, malaria is curable with medical assistance.