Malaria remains one of the oldest diseases in the world. According to statistics from the World Health Organisation, 3.4 billion people live in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 91 countries and territories.
Malaria is a disease that is transmitted through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is caused by Plasmodium parasites. Two of the parasite species that cause malaria in humans pose the greatest threat. The species are Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax.
P. falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite on the African continent. It is responsible for most malaria-related deaths globally.
P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The most recent report by WHO reveals an estimated 216 million malaria cases and 445,000 deaths. It also shows that an estimated 91% of deaths in 2016 were in the WHO African Region.
Symptoms may vary due to age, severity and the level of immunity in the individual.
In a non-immune individual, the symptoms including fever, headache, and chills may be mild making it difficult to recognize malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, malaria can become more severe and lead to death.
In Children with severe malaria, symptoms as severe anaemia, and respiratory distress are seen
Who is at risk?
The most vulnerable are persons with no or little immunity against the disease.
• Young children, who have not yet developed partial immunity to malaria
• Pregnant women, whose immunity is decreased by pregnancy, especially during the first and second pregnancies
• Travelers or migrants coming from areas with little or no malaria transmission, who lack immunity.
Malaria can be prevented with the use of treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying with insecticides. Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria. For travellers, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections. Keeping a clean surrounding without stagnant water also helps in preventing the breeding of the mosquitoes
Malaria is best treated with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). The parasite P.falciparum has shown resistance to medicines such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP).
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