Where is Malaria Found
Malaria is found in warm tropical and subtropical environments and is prevalent in areas of Central and South America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
What Causes Malaria
Malaria is caused by a parasite that enters a person through the bite of an infected mosquito. There are four different types of malaria parasite and the Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous species. It is this one that causes cerebral malaria. This condition occurs when the parasites clump together in the fine capillaries of the brain. It is fatal without treatment.
The parasites move from the mosquito’s salivary gland into the person’s bloodstream. They then settle in the liver where they invade cells and reproduce. After a couple of days the cells burst, releasing thousands of new parasites into the blood. It is at this stage that symptoms normally occur.
What are the Symptoms of Malaria
Malaria is an unpleasant disease that is accompanied by a number of symptoms. These commonly include the following:
• Fevers and chills
Once the parasites have multiplied, they need to return to a mosquito. This occurs when an infected person is bitten. Inside the mosquito, the male and female parasites sexually produce the next generation and the cycle begins again.
How is Malaria Prevented and Treated
The malaria parasites in some areas have become drug resistant and this has caused problems with treatment. The Mayo Clinic list the following as the most common treatments for malaria:
• Chloroquine (Aralen)
• Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin)
• Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
• Combination of atovaquone and proguanil (Malarone)
Generally, the same drugs are used to prevent malaria as are used to treat it. Chloroquine is largely ineffective in Africa as the parasites have become chloroquine resistant. The best cost-effective method of prevention in Africa is mosquito nets that are impregnated with insect repellent.
Visitors to malaria-prone regions should take tablets to prevent the disease, as prescribed by a doctor. Wearing long pants and clothing with long sleeves is also helpful and covering exposed skin with insect repellent is wise. Mosquitoes bite at any time of day but the anopheles mosquito which commonly carries malaria normally bites in the night with most activity at dawn and dusk.
Spraying insecticides in a room, burning pyrethroid coils and heating insecticide impregnated tablets all help to control mosquitoes as do screened windows. No one method is foolproof including medication so it is best to use a combination of preventative methods.
Malaria is a deadly disease caused by parasites that are carried by mosquitoes. It affects tropical and subtropical regions and is the cause of over a million deaths each year. With a multifaceted approach, it is possible to control malaria and prevent many of these deaths.
Epidemics Viruses and Plagues, Dr Peter Moore, Penguin Group, 2007
The Mayo Clinic