Malaria is a very important disease in terms of public health. It is the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Despite this fact, many Americans do not know about this fatal disease because it is not prevalent in our country. Instead, malaria tends to ravage poor countries with little resources or education. Here are some facts about malaria:
Pathology: Malaria is caused by four different parasites that are transmitted by mosquitos. The mosquito bites an infected person, sucking up some of the parasite-infested blood. After about a week, that parasite is then transmitted into the next person the mosquito bites. This parasite enters the human’s blood stream and travels to the liver, entering the “incubation period”. In anywhere from days or months, the parasites multiply and leave the liver to live inside of red blood cells. They continue to multiply until they blood cells burst, leaving the parasites to roam and ravage the rest of the body.
Malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, shared needles, or from a mother to her baby during delivery.
Symptoms: fever, flu, shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia (low iron), jaundice (yellowing skin), kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, death. Symptoms can develop anywhere from 7 days to 1 year after infection, and relapses can also occur. Death occurs when blood supply is cut off to major organs.
Treatments: Various prescription drugs can effectively treat malaria. It can be diagnosed after a simple blood test.
Prevention: Use mosquito nets, take antimalarial drugs, use insecticides on the walls of the home, sleep under bed nets, and wear insect repellent and long sleeved clothes if out at night. There is no vaccine, but it is considered to be the most important research project in public health.
Morbidity (incidence of disease): 300-500 million new infections a year
Epidemiology: See geographic distribution of malaria. It no longer exists in the United States or parts of Western Europe.
Interesting Statistics/ Facts:
- 40% of the world’s population live in high-risk malaria areas
- 80% of malarial deaths occur in Africa below the Sahara
- Malaria kills more children under the age of 5 than HIV/ AIDS
- Malaria kills 8,000 Brazilians year-more than AIDS and cholera combined
- 1/5 deaths in children in Africa is due to malaria
What YOU can do to help:
- donate mosquito nets at Power of Love Foundation
- donate money to the SWAT Malaria Foundation
- volunteer with Doctors without Borders or other similar organizations
- donate clean blood for donation/ transfusion
- donate money to The Global Fund
For more information or to do some research on your own, please consult the following sites: