With the onset of monsoon there is a sporadic rise in monsoon-related ailments such as dengue and malaria. The incidence of malaria increases when water logging allows breeding of mosquitoes and thereby in transmission of the disease.
Of late, we have heard less on what the government is doing to curb the rise in malaria cases; there is much hullabaloo about the migrants of Bihar and UP, who are reportedly bringing the disease to the city of Mumbai; only when the influx stops, says the Shiv Sena, can the BMC take effective steps to curb and eradicate the disease.
According to the official figures released by the government of India, in 2008 the country had 1.5 million malaria cases, resulting in 924 deaths, whereas the real figures were close to 40,000 deaths the same year.
The outbreak of malaria this season has already led to over 10,000 patients seeking treatment in Mumbai. Thirty percent of patients have been admitted in intensive care units. According to doctors, the number of critical patients suffering from malaria has doubled from what it was last year.
It must be remembered, in the absence of early intervention malaria can lead to serious health complications.
Here are the factors causing malaria, and how it can be contained.
Causes and risk factors
Malaria is caused by single celled protozoan parasite called plasmodium. Four species of the parasite Plasmodium can cause malaria in humans. They are Plasmodium vivax, P. falciparum, P. malariae and P. ovale. The infection is transmitted to humans by the female Anopheles mosquito bites, the parasite can be transmitted from pregnant infected mother to the unborn child and also through infected blood transfusions. People traveling to the area of malaria from the malaria free area, children and infants and pregnant woman and the unborn child are at higher risk of having malaria.
Sign and symptoms
The symptoms appear 10 days to 4 weeks after the infection. They can be seen after 8 days or even after 1 year also. Symptoms of malaria are high grade fever with moderate or severe chills, general feeling of malaise and profuse sweating. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, headache and diarrhea. There may be joint pain (arthralgia), hemoglobinurea, retinal damage, jaundice, convulsion and coma. There is retinal whitening in cerebral malaria which can help to distinguish it from other causes of fevers.
Sighs and tests
Enlargement of liver and spleen are the signs of malaria. Malaria is diagnosed on the basis of medical history, traveling history and observation of blood smear under the microscope.
Anti- malarial medications like Quinine, Chloroquine, Hydrochloroquine, Mefloquine, doxycycline and combination of Atovaquone and Proguanil can all be used for the treatment of malaria.The medications are given singly or in combination. Other drugs for malaria are Artemisinin-derived medications, Primaquine and Halofantrine. The drug and the duration of the treatment depend on the type of disease, age and condition of the patient and the area of infection acquired.
With treatment outcome is good but in cases of malaria falciparun with complications it can be poor and fatal too.
Malaria caused due to Plasmodium falciparum may cause serious complications like cerebral malaria and anemia. Dehydration, kidney and liver failure, meningitis, spleen enlargement and breathing difficulties (due to fluid accumulation in the lungs) are some more complications. Infection by P falciparum can be life threatening also.
Calling your health care provider
If there is fever with severe chills or the symptoms of flu after traveling to a malaria endemic area then it is better to take medical help immediately.
Malaria can be prevented by keeping the mosquitoes away by physical (netting) and chemical (insecticide sprays) methods. The treatment medications used for treatment of malaria can be used for prevention also. The health care provider can guide about the dose and duration of drugs to be taken for prevention purpose. Here it is important to explain to the doctor the area to be travelling. High risk people should avoid mosquito bites and travel to malaria prevalent areas.
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