Malaria is a serious and often fatal disease that is caused by a pathogen which is a unicellular parasite. The parasite has four different strains, which are:
– plasmodium falciparum (found globally but most common in Africa);
– plasmodium vivax (widely ranges in Asia, Africa, the middle east, oceanic and both Americas);
– plasmodium ovale;
– plasmodium malariae.
Malarial cycle is normally dependant on transmission by mosquito bites among people and animals. After the bite, the parasite travels just within 30 minutes to the liver and thereafter reproduces rapidly. The process may take place between 5 to 15 days but in some people it can remain dormant in the liver for years.
The parasite then travels to the bloodstream from the liver entering the red blood cells and continuing to reproduce. Continually it is infecting more and more red blood cells. As the cycle repeats itself, it depletes the body oxygen and coincides with the onset of fever and chill.
1) Fever. This is the first sign of malaria. It usually drops later after a couple of hours and then chill sets in. The cycle repeats itself two to four days later. It can progress to death from the initial fever after 24 hours.
4) Vomiting which occurs repeatedly.
5) Generalized convulsions.
6) Joint pains.
Diagnosing malaria does not present any problems nowadays. Blood is normally taken from a finger prick in the lab and then the parasite is seen in the red blood cells under a microscope.
It is important to ensure a rapid and complete elimination of the plasmodium parasite from the patient’s blood to reduce transmission of infection to others.
Anti malarial drugs such as Chloroquine is usually prescribed and given to patients suffering from malaria. Chloroquine is given depending on the body weight and age of the patient. The drug known as Artimisinin is also common in treating malaria.
Patients should not be given the drugs on empty stomach. They should also be given plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Preventive measures mostly include acts intended to avoid mosquito bites.
- Pools of stagnant water should be gotten rid off around dwellings.
- Any container holding water in the house should be closed.
- Indoor spraying insecticides should be conducted occasionally.
- Use mosquito nets, screens, fiber glass masher or magnetic insect repellent screens for windows.
- Sleep under treated mosquito nets.
- Chemoprophylaxis should be taken by travelers going to malarial-endemic areas.
Until recently there was no vaccine for malaria. Fortunately, the vaccine RTS,S (trade name Mosquirix) was approved for use by European regulators in July 2015. The vaccine has been developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The scientists started to work on it in the late 1980s.
On 23 October 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) jointly recommended a pilot implementation of the vaccine in Africa.