Malaria symptoms

Are you afraid you may have malaria? Malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium, a nasty little parasite that infects red blood cells. Humans have been dealing with malaria for hundreds of years—in fact, it’s very possible malaria has been around since the beginning of the human race. Malaria was first diagnosed in 1880 when doctors identified the parasites. Later, in 1889, mosquitoes were found to transmit the disease. There are four different types of malaria, although generally only Plasmodium falciparum is life-threatening. The other three strands, while serious, usually do not result in death.

The parasite that causes malaria moves from the mosquito to a human host. When a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, the parasite is injected directly into the bloodstream. The parasites then travel to the liver where they mature and infect the red blood cells. The cycle then repeats when an uninfected mosquito bites the person and sucks out red blood cells containing the parasite.

After being bitten, it usually takes between seven and 21 days for symptoms to start appearing. However, the incubation period is not always the same, and some people have actually had symptoms appear as early as four days and as late as a year. Of course, symptoms appear very quickly in those who have not taken the adequate precautions against malaria. Some strains of malaria may also take longer to appear than others because the parasites lie dormant in the liver for quite some time. In fact, sometimes, only a portion of the malaria parasites wake at one time. This means the dormant parasites may awaken later, resulting in another bought of malaria. This is known as relapsing malaria and is more common than many think.

The symptoms of malaria are sometimes hard to distinguish from other diseases. In fact, malaria can easily be mistaken for the common flu because the two share many symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headaches, and chills. Often, sweating, fever, and chills come in cycles that repeat every few days. Some other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and a cough. Others may experience jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This is due to the fact that malaria can destroy red blood cells and the cells found in the liver.

Patients who come down with Plasmodium falciparum, the deadly strain of malaria, may experience additional symptoms. They may have internal bleeding, kidney failure, liver failure, nerve problems, shock, and can even fall into a coma. Cerebral malaria, or malaria that involves a common, seizures, or an altered mental state, can occur in severe infections. Unless treated right away, this form of malaria is terminal; even with rapid treatment, between 15 and 20% of all patients die.

Malaria is a major problem in some areas of Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, although most people assume it only occurs in Africa since that is where most outbreaks have occurred so far. Actually, Malaria cases have been found in almost 100 countries, and 40% of the popular is at risk. If you are planning on visiting any country that may have malaria outbreaks, talk to a doctor to learn what precautions you should take. These may include wearing protective clothing, staying indoors during the early morning and evening when mosquitoes are at their most active, and using insect repellent.

Malaria can be treated in a number of ways. For mild cases, oral medication can be used. For severe malaria, an intravenous drug treatment may be called for. Which drug is used depends on the strain of malaria; Chloroquine is often used for many strains, but some are resistant to it.

Last updated on Dec 21st, 2009 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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