Malaria Bites Again and Again


Malaria Symptoms

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. 350-500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide each year. Over one million people die; most of them are young children in Africa. Malaria is all over the tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of the Americas, Asia and Africa. Malaria is cause by a protozoan parasite of Plasmodium and can be transmitted to animals by female mosquitos of Anopheles.

Malaria has been known for more than 4,000 years. Malaria has a huge influence on human populations. In 2700 B.C. many symptoms of what would eventually be named malaria were described in the Nei Ching, the Canon of Medicine. In 1880, Charles Louis Alphonse was the first to notice parasites in the blood of a patient suffering from the malaria disease. For his discovering, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1907.

There are many signs and symptoms of malaria. These include flulike illnesses with a high fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches. Some people have can have nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, sweating and yellowing of the skin. People with P. flaciparum malaria can develop bleeding problems, shock, liver or kidney failure, central nervous system problems; comas and can die from the infection or even its complications. Even with treatment, about 15%-20% of people die.

During a physical examination, the doctor may say you have an enlarged liver and an enlarged spleen. Malaria blood smears taken at a 6 to 13 hour intervals can confirm the diagnosis.  Anti-malarial drugs can be prescribed to people for treatment. It is important to see your health care provider first. According to the CDC, people passing through South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Asia, and the South Pacific should take one of these listed drugs: mefloquine, doxycycline, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, or Malarone. Malarone is a new anti-malarial drug in the United States and is a combination of atovquone and proguanil. It is recommended over the other drugs listed above.

Scientists all around the world are trying to make a safe and effective vaccine for malaria. As of right now, there is no vaccine that is approved for human use. To help decrease the chance of catching malaria, here are some options: spray your home with insecticide; sleep under a net, bed nets in particular that have been treated with insecticide; covering your skin by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts; and spray your clothing and skin, sprays with permethrin are safe on clothing and sprays containing DEET can be used on skin safely.

In order to transmit malaria, it involves two hosts, humans and Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is transmitted by the bite of the mosquito as it injects the malaria parasites into your blood. Malaria is not very common at all in the United States. It is the most common in Africa and Asia. If you plan to go there, make sure you have taken one of the drugs that were listed earlier or make sure you have covered your skin. Malaria is not just a disease that has a treatment; people die from this disease every year. Take caution and research what the percentage of people that have malaria where you are going to be traveling.

What exactly is malaria?

How many years has this disease been known?

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