What do you know about Malaria?
Today is World Malaria Day, which is celebrated annually on 25 April. Over the last decade, the world has made major progress in the fight against malaria.
Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25%, and 50 of the 99 countries with on-going transmission are now on track to meet the 2015 World Health Assembly target of reducing incidence rates by more than 75%.
World Malaria Day was instituted by WHO Member States during the World Health Assembly of 2007. It is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control.
History of Malaria
The Greeks were the first to write about malaria. Earlier on, the Egyptians made numerous references to it in their hieroglyphs. However, it wasn’t until late in the 18th century that its aetiology was better understood.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a disease of the blood that is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted from person to person by a particular type of mosquito.
Photo courtesy of nrp.org
The Anopheles Mosquito
The female Anopheles mosquito is the only mosquito that transmits malaria. These mosquitoes are called “malaria vectors”.
She primarily bites between the hours of 9pm and 5am, which is why sleeping under a mosquito net at night is such an important method of prevention.
The Malaria Parasite
There are more than 100 species of malaria parasite. The most deadly – and most common in Africa - is known as Plasmodium falciparum. Once the parasite enters the human body, it lodges itself in the liver where it multiplies approximately 10,000 times. Two weeks after entering the body, the parasite bursts into the blood stream where it begins infecting red blood cells.
Malaria Transmission Cycle
Photo courtesy of crick.ac.uk
Symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 7 days later. Symptoms include fever, headache and vomiting.
How it kills
If drugs are not available or if the parasites are resistant to them, malaria infection can develop to anaemia, hypoglycaemia or cerebral malaria, in which capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked.
Cerebral malaria can cause coma, life-long-learning disabilities, and death.
Infographic courtesy of gbchealth.org
Who is most affected?
- A child dies every minute from malaria
- Malaria claims 660,000 lives per year—90% of those in Africa. More than 1400 kids lose their lives to a mosquito bite every day.
- There were an estimated 219 million malaria cases worldwide in 2010, mostly pregnant women and children.
- Those who have HIV and become infected are at greater risk of dying.
Travellers and Malaria
If travelling to a malaria-risk country, consult your health-care provider on appropriate malaria prevention, like antimalarial drugs.
Travellers that become ill with flu-like symptoms, either while travelling in a malaria-risk area or after returning home, should seek immediate medical attention.
What can be done to avoid catching Malaria?
Mosquito nets (or LLINs) are the surest way to prevent malaria. Some NGOs have invested in rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination treatments to reduce malaria deaths in women and children.
Improving surface water management at relief camps, and in areas where water drainage is an issue, will reduce breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Indoor residual spraying (IRS) have been shown to be highly effective vector control interventions in preventing malaria morbidity and mortality. IRS is the practice of spraying insecticides on the interior walls of homes in malaria-affected areas. For individual protection, the most effective chemical insect repellents to reduce human-mosquito contact are those based on DEET. Malaria No More have introduced a mobile platform to deliver health education to ensure families sleep under nets and seek testing and treatment.
Information courtesy of who.int, malarianomore.org and wikipedia