Malaria is an infectious disease that is caused by mosquito-borne plasmodium parasite which infects the red blood cells. It’s one of the deadliest diseases in India. There’s no vaccine for malaria yet and immunity occurs naturally through repeated infection. Common symptoms are fever, chills, vomiting, nausea, body ache, headache, cough and diarrhoea. If untreated, it can lead to complications like jaundice, dehydration, anaemia, brain malaria, liver failure and kidney failure. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly - anyone with decreased immunity is at a greater risk.
Causes of malaria
Malaria is an infectious disease that is caused by plasmodium parasite which infects the red blood cells and is characterised by fever, body ache, chills and sweating. Of the four species that cause malaria (plasmodium vivax, plasmodium falciparum, plasmodium ovale, plasmodium malariae) plasmodium falciparum is the most serious and can cause serious complications. An individual can be infected with two species at the same time.
Symptoms of malaria
After been bitten by an infected mosquito, the disease takes around 14 days to manifest. Commonly observed symptoms are:
- Nausea and vomiting
Some of the other symptoms include dry cough and muscle pain
. If you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, then you should take adequate rest until these symptoms reside.
Treatment of malaria
The National Institute of Malaria Research has developed guidelines on diagnosis and treatment of malaria
Complications associated with malaria
- Chloroquine is given to the patient and dose is given depending upon the body weight of the patient. The use of Chloroquine has led to the emergence of many Chloroquine-resistant falciparum malaria cases. For such individuals, a drug called Artemisinin is given.
- Avoid giving anti-malarial drugs on an empty stomach. Always give the first dose under observation.
- Give plenty of fluids.
- If no improvement occurs within 48 hours, call the doctor.
- Look for any warning signs of dehydration, reduced urine output, bleeding, seizures or coma.
If untreated within 24 hours of the symptoms showing up, it can be a very serious and life threatening disease because of the following complications:
Protection against malaria
- Severe anaemia caused due to the red blood cells being destroyed
- Cerebral malaria- The infected red blood cells block the vessels in the brain and lead to seizures and coma and eventually death if not treated.
- Very low BP leading to ‘shock’
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
With some simple yet effective precautionary measures, one can prevent malaria. Here are some of them which you can try:
- Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water - whether it is a nallah near your house, a pond in the neighbourhood or a water puddle near your house from a long time. Get them closed, cleaned up as soon as possible. Even plants in pots, bird baths, fountains etc should not hold stagnant water. The water in the swimming pools needs to be circulated and chlorinated.
- If you store water in the house due to its shortage, close the container.
- Use mosquito screens, nets, fibre glass meshes or magnetic insect repellent screens for your windows if you live in a mosquito-infested area. If possible, avoid the time immediately after dusk to venture out especially so for children. If you need to, wear clothes that cover your body to a large extent. Cover the exposed parts with a mosquito repellent.
- Indoor residual spraying with an insecticide is also recommended.
- Insecticide treated bed nets should be used in areas where mosquitoes and malaria are rampant.
- If travelling to a malaria-endemic area, chemo-prophylaxis is given to travellers. Consult your doctor and discuss your travel.