Malaria is a parasitic infection of the red blood cells. It is acquired via the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. The ecology of the disease is complex, depending on factors such as altitude, climate, mosquito breeding sites and human behaviour for successful transmission of the disease in an area.
There are four types of parasites namely Plasmodium vivax, malariae, ovale and falciparum. Vivax, malariae and ovale can cause serious illness but seldom cause death in otherwise healthy patients. P. Falciparum on the other hand can cause cerebral malaria and ultimately death in a relatively short period of time if left untreated. Anopheles mosquitoes can be found in most African countries.
Where the disease occurs
How is the disease transmitted
The main symptoms
Common symptoms include:
- Generalised flu symptoms
- Muscle aches
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
Making a diagnosis
Protection against malaria
Specific drugs used for protection
If you think you have malaria
Remember that patients may develop malaria despite having taken all reasonable care with both personal protection against mosquito bites and prophylactic drugs. The disease may present many weeks or months after exposure.If you feel you may have malaria it is essential that you attend for detailed medical examination as soon as possible. Ensure that the medical staff realize your history of international travel to a risk region, either just recently or in the distant past.
If you return from overseas and experience fevers, sweating, shivering, aches and pains and other flu like symptoms you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Malaria can be a serious disease if left untreated. It is wiser to assume you have malaria until proven otherwise.