April 25 is celebrated as World Malaria Day each year and this year the theme has been declared by World Health Day as ‘Reaching the Zero Malaria Target’ and thus WHO and its partners mark this day by celebrating the achievements of countries that are approaching – and achieving – malaria elimination.
They provide inspiration for all nations that are working to stamp out this deadly disease and improve the health and livelihoods of their populations.
Malaria is a life threatening disease. It’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Infected mosquitoes carry the Plasmodium parasite. When this mosquito bites you, parasite is released into your bloodstream.
Once the parasites are inside your body, they travel to the liver, where they mature. After several days, the mature parasites enter the bloodstream and begin to infect red blood cells. Within 48 to 72 hours, the parasites inside the red blood cells multiply, causing the infected cells to burst open. The parasites continue to infect red blood cells, resulting in symptoms that occur in cycles that last two to three days at a time.
World Malaria Day History
The idea of World Malaria Day was developed from Africa Malaria Day. The Africa Malaria day is basically an event that has been observed by African governments since 2001, first held in 2008. In 2007, at the 60th session of the World Health Assembly, a meeting sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) proposed that Africa Malaria Day be changed to World Malaria Day.
What causes Malaria?
Malaria is transmitted by blood, so it can also be transmitted through:
- an organ transplant
- a transfusion
- use of shared needles or syringes
Symptoms of Malaria
The symptoms of malaria typically develop within 10 days to 4 weeks following the infection. In some cases, symptoms may not develop for several months. Some malarial parasites can enter the body but will be dormant for long periods of time.
Common symptoms of malaria include:
- shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe
- high fever
- profuse sweating
- abdominal pain
- muscle pain
- bloody stools
Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria. During your appointment, your doctor will review your health history, including any recent travel to tropical climates. A physical exam will also be performed.
Your doctor will be able to determine if you have an enlarged spleen or liver. If you have symptoms of malaria, your doctor may order additional blood tests to confirm your diagnosis.
These tests will show:
- whether you have malaria
- what type of malaria you have
- if your infection is caused by a parasite that’s resistant to certain types of drugs
- if the disease has caused anemia
- if the disease has affected your vital organs
Malaria can be a life-threatening condition, especially if you’re infected with the parasite P. falciparum. Treatment for the disease is typically provided in a hospital. Your doctor will prescribe medications based on the type of parasite that you have.
In some instances, the medication prescribed may not clear the infection because of parasite resistance to drugs. If this occurs, your doctor may need to use more than one medication or change medications altogether to treat your condition.
Additionally, certain types of malaria parasites, such as P. vivax and P. ovale, have liver stages where the parasite can live in your body for an extended period of time and reactivate at a later date causing a relapse of the infection.
If you’re found to have one of these types of malaria parasites, you’ll be given a second medication to prevent a relapse in the future.
The most common antimalarial drugs include:
- Chloroquine phosphate. Chloroquine is the preferred treatment for any parasite that is sensitive to the drug. But in many parts of the world, parasites are resistant to chloroquine, and the drug is no longer an effective treatment.
- Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). ACT is a combination of two or more drugs that work against the malaria parasite in different ways. This is usually the preferred treatment for chloroquine-resistant malaria. Examples include artemether-lumefantrine (Coartem) and artesunate-mefloquine.
Other common antimalarial drugs include:
- Atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone)
- Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin) with doxycycline (Oracea, Vibramycin, others)
- Primaquine phosphate