Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite, Plasmodium, which involves high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia. It is widespread in tropical and sub-tropical regions in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The disease results from the multiplication of the malaria parasites in the red blood cells, causing symptoms typically of fever and headache. The parasite multiplying within the red blood cells rupture within 48 to 72 hours, infecting more red blood cells. The first symptoms usually occur 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, however the symptoms can appear as early as 8 days and as much as a year after infection.
Historical records suggest that malaria has infected human beings since the beginning of mankind. The name "mal aria", which means "bad air" in Italian, was first used in English in 1740 by H. Walpole in describing this condition. The term was made short to "malaria" in the 20th century. C. Laveran in 1880 is the first person that has identified the parasite inside the human body. In 1889, R. Ross discovered that mosquitoes are the ones transmitting malaria to human beings.
Destruction of blood cells is one of the most serious complications by malaria. Liver failure and kidney failure, meningitis, respiratory failure from fluid in the lungs or pulmonary edema, and rupture of the spleen leading to massive internal bleeding or hemorrhage are other complications caused by malaria.
Preventing malaria in an area is a matter of controlling one of the three factors causing it:
- high human population density
- high mosquito population density
- high transmission from humans to mosquitoes and from mosquitoes to humans
Although prevention of malaria may be more cost-effective than treatment of the disease in the long run, the capital costs required are out of reach to many of the world's poorest people. But according to CDC, most people living in areas where malaria is common have already acquired some immunity to the disease. It is still best to consult your doctor when you will travel to a place known to be infected by malaria, because the medication will usually start 2 weeks before your travel and continue for a month after you have left the place.
Pregnant women, too, should take the medications because the risk of infecting their unborn baby is high.
However, people under anti-malarial medications may still be infected. In these cases, preventing mosquito bites is the best tactic to be used, as well as knowing the certain drugs for the certain type of malarial infection.
Treating Malaria requires medical attention especially those of the most serious types. Chloroquine is a frequently used anti-malarial medication but the choice of medication depends in part on where you where when you were infected. Aggressive supportive medical care, including intravenous (IV) fluids and other medications and breathing or respiratory support may be needed.