Do You Know Of This Mosquito-borne Disease And It’s Not Dengue!


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There was a time when people were all terrified by the outbreak of the virus brought by particular mosquito species. Each and every day of the outbreak period they were being fed with the horrifying news headlines about the number of people dying from a viral outbreak. Masks from the drug stores were all sold out. Pregnant ladies were being extra careful and vigilant to protect their precious fetus. Needless to say, the most recent concern was the Zika virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquito. While Zika virus is an emerging infectious mosquito-borne disease, Malaria, on the other hand, is a re-emerging disease, which is known as the resurgence of malaria.

First off, what does resurgence mean?


Resurgence simply refers to the diseases which were previously easily controlled by chemotherapy and antibiotics, but now have evolved into a stronger version which is harder to eliminate, and they often appear in new locations or in drug-resistant forms. In short, it means old diseases; new problems.

Keep reading to understand more about malaria!

malaria


Distribution

Let’s start off with the basics: Who or what transmits malaria? And how does it affect humans?


Malaria is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito and occurs throughout the tropics and subtropics. The cycle begins with the female mosquito being infected after taking a “bloody” meal containing the malarial parasites. The baby parasites grow and multiply in the body of the mosquito and move to its salivary gland, taking up to 7-20 days approximately. The mosquito then sends the parasites into another victim’s blood stream and eventually reaching human’s liver. Again, they grow and grow into a more mature form to be released into the bloodstream again to attack the red blood cells.


Like dengue, there are a few subtypes in Malaria that result in different kind of symptoms:

 
  • Plasmodium falciparum infection


This is the most dangerous form of infection known because the person infected is either killed or cured! It is hard to tell malaria and dengue apart because the symptoms are very much alike: tiredness, headache, fever, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, yellowish discoloration of the skin and mucous membrane, abdominal pain. Due to the attack of the red cells, the count will decrease and the person will develop anemia as well as low platelet count. The hallmark of P. falciparum infection is the severe complication: cerebral malaria (cerebral: relating to/affecting the brain), resulting in confusion, seizures, coma, and death. You may or may not hear about blackwater fever, but it is a complication of malarial infection where dark urine is observed due to the rupture of red cells into the bloodstream.


  • Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale infection


The illness is usually mild. The anemia develops slowly with the manifestation of fever with chills and rigors. Because the parasites reside in the liver for a longer time instead of being released to attack the red cells, relapse may occur many years after the infection, especially the first two years after leaving the malarious area. You never know!
 
  • Plasmodium malariae infection


This is usually associated with mild symptoms and bouts of fever every third day. Chronic infection may affect the kidneys. However, this is very rarely life-threatening.



If you are wondering who is at risk, this will answer your questions.

“Travellers to countries where the degree of malaria transmission varies in different areas should seek advice on the risk in the particular zones that they will be visiting.” –WHO.

“This applies particularly to individuals backpacking to remote places and visiting areas where diagnostic facilities and medical care are not readily available. Travellers staying overnight in rural areas may be at highest risk.”

Have you heard of the term “Airport malaria”?


Airport Malaria refers to rare cases wherein the illness is acquired outside the tropics when mosquitoes are transported from endemic areas, or when the local mosquito becomes infected by a returning traveller.

Malaria can also be transmitted through needle sharing especially among the intravenous drug users. Contaminated blood transfusion is, unfortunately, another way of transmitting the infection.

 


Ready, set, spray!




One of the prevention methods includes the use of indoor residual spraying with DDT. When it was introduced in World War II, DDT had managed to save a lot of lives. Also, it is proven that with the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, the mortality rate has reduced about one-fifth in Africa. Covering up extremities when out after dark can prevent mosquito bites.

 
If you have fever of more than a week and had travelled to malaria endemic area, do not hesitate to consult the nearest doctor and do a blood test!
 

References:

NCBI

MalariaAtlasProject

WHO

 


Angie Loh

by Angie Loh

A medical student with nothing but passion and a pen. Poems and novels never fail to make me feel alive. I'm inspired to make the world a better place and fill it with a little bit more love. But first, where's my coffee? View all articles by Angie Loh.




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