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Malaria is a disease caused by a single-cell parasite called a protist. There are many different types of malarial parasites, and they can be transmitted by several different kinds of biting insects. While there are effective medicines that can help eliminate the symptoms of this disease, it is most prevalent in tropical areas with warm, moist climates. These conditions create an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit malaria parasites to humans. Like other parasitic diseases, humans can be infected with malaria through direct contact with an infected person or even through contaminated water or food. In addition, some species of mosquitoes also serve as vectors for transmission from one person to another. As such, it is not just those who live in areas with high rates of malarial transmission who need to take precautions against getting this disease. Anyone who visits these places should as well for their own safety’s sake.
What causes malaria?
Malaria is caused by a parasite called a protist. The protists’ life cycle is dependent on a particular species of mosquito to be transmitted to a new host. In humans, this parasitic protist is usually found in the red blood cells. When an infected human ingests microfilaria (the parasite’s immature form), the parasite enters the human body. The mosquito then picks up the parasite from the new host’s cells and takes it back to the original host’s cells, where it reproduces. During the next three stages of the parasite’s development, the female protozoan produces thousands of male microfilariae. These microfilariae eventually leave the host’s cells and mate in the mosquito’s gut, producing hundreds of fertilized eggs, which are swallowed by the next host. In the new host, the fertilized eggs develop into new microfilariae that are transmitted to a new host. This cycle can repeat itself over and over, causing severe epidemics as populations become infected and mosquitoes transmit the parasites to humans.
How is malaria transmitted?
Malaria is usually transmitted through the bite of a specific type of mosquito. Symptoms usually appear 30 to 40 hours after being bitten, and they can be severe. The parasites that cause malaria are found in the red blood cells of infected mosquitoes and are transmitted to new hosts when the infected mosquito bites a new person. Although certain species of mosquitoes are more prevalent in certain parts of the world, most people who contract malaria in the United States and other countries do so when they travel to tropical regions. The mosquito species that most commonly transmit malaria to humans are found in tropical and subtropical areas, such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific.
How is malaria diagnosed?
Malaria is diagnosed through a series of tests that look for the parasites that cause the disease. These tests may be done on a blood sample or a sample of tissue (like a sputum sample) that has been taken from the infected person. The tests check for the presence of antibodies, which are proteins produced by the immune system to fight infections. Malaria parasites generally don’t trigger an immune response, which makes diagnosis with antibodies easier. When a person has malaria, the symptoms are often similar to those of other tropical diseases, such as dengue fever or Zika virus infection. A health care provider may suspect malaria if the person has symptoms like fever, chills, and headaches, along with gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A health care provider may also examine a person with malaria for signs of other diseases, such as skin rashes, eye inflammations, and liver abnormalities.
Treatment for Malaria
Malaria is a complicated disease that requires careful treatment. When malaria is diagnosed early, it can be treated with medicines that are available as inexpensive generic drugs. Treatment is also available for pregnant women and children. For people who have malaria and who are not pregnant, their best defense is to prevent mosquito bites. This can be difficult in subtropical and tropical areas, where most people live. People can prevent malaria by taking precautions against getting bitten, by using insect repellents, by sleeping under a bed net, and by staying indoors during the day. Malaria cannot be cured once it’s in the body, but it can be prevented with a combination of prevention strategies, such as using insect repellents, taking precautions against mosquito bites, staying indoors during the day, and using bed nets. So long as there is one person with malaria in a community, mosquitoes can still spread the disease. Therefore, prevention is essential.
Prevention of Malaria
Prevention strategies are important to prevent infection with malaria by insects. Preventing mosquito bites is one way to prevent malaria. People who spend a lot of time outdoors at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active can use insect repellent sprays or lotions to prevent mosquito bites. Anyone who lives in or travels to a malarial area should take these precautions, especially if there are other people in the same situation. People who are traveling to malarial areas should discuss the need for insect protection with their health care provider before traveling.
Malaria is a serious disease that can be fatal if untreated. It is most prevalent in tropical areas with warm, moist climates. Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent malaria. If someone has malaria, prevention strategies such as staying inside during the day, wearing insect repellent, and taking medication are important to prevent the spread of the disease. People who travel to malaria-endemic regions should discuss prevention strategies such as using insect repellent, taking precautions against mosquito bites, and staying inside during the day with their health care provider before traveling to a malarial region.