Malaria FAQFollowing are some common questions about Malaria:
- What is malaria?
- What causes malaria?
- How does plasmodium cause malaria?
- What is cerebral malaria?
- What are the symptoms of malaria?
- What is the incubation period of different types of parasites?
- How is malaria diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for malaria?
- Can one crush malaria tablets before consuming them?
- How much time does it take to recover from malaria?
- Is a person with malaria contagious?
- What are precautionary measures for malaria?
- In which areas of the world malaria is common?
- How do we reduce spread of malaria?
- What age group is most affected by malaria?
- How to prevent malaria in children?
- What is the cost of test for malaria?
What is malaria?
Malaria can be fatal disease wherein patient experiences severe headache, fever and low immunity power. Bite of infected female anopheles mosquito causes malaria. An infected mosquito carries plasmodium parasite.
There are total 5 types of plasmodium parasites- Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, plasmodium malariae, plasmodium ovale and plasmodium knowlesi. These parasites are released into the bloodstream when infected mosquito bites. Parasites mature in liver and after several days enter into bloodstream where they start affecting red blood cells. Within 2-3 days, parasites begin to multiply and harm whole body.
What causes malaria?
Malaria is basically caused by bite of plasmodium parasite infected female anopheles mosquito. When another mosquito bites infected person, it becomes infected with parasite for lifetime and can spread malaria through its bite. It can also be passed down by infected mother to her baby. The primary mode of transmission of malaria is through blood. Hence, it can be transmitted by organ implant, blood transfusion and infected syringes and other medical tools.
How does plasmodium cause malaria?
Plasmodium is a type of parasite. Parasites are organisms that live inside the body of host (another organism) and derive nutrients from the host's body. Infected female anopheles mosquito acts as a malaria vector. There are total five species of parasites responsible for malaria in human beings out of which two species- P. falciparum and P. vivax pose maximum threat.
What is cerebral malaria?
Cerebral malaria occurs when parasite infected blood blocks capillaries or small blood vessels supplying blood to brain. This can result in damage and swelling of the brain. It can be life-threatening and person may enter state of coma.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria can be severe and start to show within 10 days to four weeks of infection. Some patients may not even develop symptoms for longer duration of time as plasmodium parasite can remain dormant or inactive for long interval. If these symptoms are not treated, malaria can become a life-threatening disease. Hence, it is important not to ignore these symptoms. Some common symptoms of malaria have been enlisted below:
- High fever
- Frequent shaking chills
- Blood in stools
- Pain in muscles
- Loss of appetite
What is the incubation period of different types of parasites?
Incubation period is the duration between getting infected by parasite and exhibiting symptoms. Incubation period for different types of plasmodium parasites are as follows:
- Plasmodium falciparum- 9 to 14 days.
- Plasmodium vivax- 12 to18 days, but may stay dormant for long period of time ranging from 8 months to 10 months or longer.
- Plasmodium malariae- 18 to 40 days.
- Plasmodium ovale – 12 to18 days.
- Plasmodium knowlesi- 9 to12 days.
How is malaria diagnosed?
If you have been suffering from symptoms of malaria for more than a week, consult a doctor without any further delay. Early diagnosis will make your treatment easier and save your money.
- Doctor will first perform physical examination and inquire about your family's medical history
- Questions regarding recent travel may as well be asked. If you have traveled to areas where there is high infection of malaria, chances of suffering from the disease are high.
- After that, doctor will ask you to go for blood test and RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Tests)
- Blood sample will be analyzed to check platelet count and amount of bilirubin in blood. Low platelet count and higher than normal level of bilirubin in blood are red flags of malaria.
- Malaria RTD's detect presence of particular proteins (antigens) produced by malarial parasites in blood sample. Some RTD's are able to detect few species of parasite while most of them can detect multiple parasite species.
What is the treatment for malaria?
Treatment for malaria depends on type of malaria causing parasite. There have been reports that some parasites have become resistant to drugs. Thus, increase in plasmodium parasite's resistance to medications has proved most of the medications ineffective.
Doctor may combine two or more treatments to cure malaria. There are no vaccinations against malaria, but research for developing one is going on. However, most of the cases of malaria are treated by using medications such as :
- Chloroquine (Aralen)
- Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- Combination of atovaquone and proguanil (Malarone)
Can one crush malaria tablets before consuming them?
All the medications suggested by doctor have to be compulsorily taken on time and in exact proportion either with water or milk. Unless and until you have difficulty in swallowing tablets, do not crush tablets. Malarone tablet can be crushed into small pieces and mixed with condensed milk or water just before consuming it.
How much time does it take to recover from malaria?
Treatment of malaria is subjected to number of factors that determine intensity of the disease. If more than one species of malaria causing parasites are found in blood sample, doctor will use multiple medications to cure it. This will prolong recovery time. Usually, it takes approximately two weeks of treatment to cure malaria.
Is a person with malaria contagious?
No, malaria is a non-contagious disease. It cannot be transmitted by the medium of air and water and by touching. The only way it can be transmitted between human beings is through blood transfusion. If infected blood is transfused into the body of a healthy human being, blood of healthy person becomes contaminated with parasites and that person suffers from malaria.
What are precautionary measures for malaria?
Malaria can be prevented if you follow certain precautions. These precautions are mentioned below:
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites
- Take antimalarial tablets
- Avoid visiting areas where mosquitoes breed and multiply
- Avoid traveling to countries where malaria is prevalent
- Try to stay indoors during evening and night time. This is the period when mosquitoes are generally active.
- Wear long pants and long sleeved shirt to protect your body parts from mosquito bites
- Make use of insect repellent that contains DEET (N,N diethylmetatoluamide). It is not safe to use repellents containing 10% to 30% DEET on infants below the age of 2 months.
- Bed nets sprayed with insecticides like permethrin or deltamethrin act as protective agents from mosquitoes. However, due to constant spraying, mosquitoes have become acquainted with these insecticides and hence, less protection is offered.
- Do not store water in containers for more than 3-4 days. If you do so, keep the area surrounding containers clean. Mosquitoes breed extensively in area where there is combination of warmth and moisture. Also, expose these containers to bright sunlight for at least 15 minutes in a day. UV rays (ultraviolet rays) have the potential to kill harmful bacteria.
In which areas of the world malaria is common?
Areas that are more prone to malaria are:
- African counties
- Central America
- South America
- Whole of Asian continent
- Western pacific islands
- Papa New Guinea
Approximately, 20%-30% of population residing in these areas are infected by malaria. Even tourists who visit these places are at high risk of contracting malaria and hence, should consult with doctor before traveling to these areas. One may use antimalarial tablets and sprays and wear long clothing when visiting above mentioned places.
How do we reduce spread of malaria?
Malaria is a non-contagious disease. Hence, every individual should ensure that he takes necessary precautions to protect himself and his community members from malaria. Some tips to reduce spread of malaria are:
- Use mosquito repellent creams
- Install bed nets to protect yourself from mosquitoes when you are sleeping
- For more information, you can refer to question number 11
What age group is most affected by malaria?
Children under the age of five years are more vulnerable to malaria. In areas where there is high risk of malaria, children usually acquire partial immunity towards the disease.
How to prevent malaria in children?
Children are more vulnerable to malaria as their resistance or immunity power is not too strong. To avoid malaria in children, they have to abstained from getting bitten by mosquitoes. If you are taking your child to parks or mosquito prone area, make sure you apply mosquito repellent cream to his exposed parts. Wear full length clothing for maximum protection. If in case there is a need for blood transfusion, parents must ensure that the donated blood is free of any parasites. Malaria can spread only through the medium of blood. Hence, mandatory precaution has to be taken.
What is the cost of test for malaria?
Diagnostic tests to determine presence of malaria causing parasite may start from average INR 350. Cost of the test greatly varies depending on severity of the disease. Malaria test price is in the range of INR 200 to INR 700. For more information about cost of malaria test, click here.