Malaria is a fact of life here. It is a consideration every traveler must deal with. We take malaria preventive medication every day we are here. It is an important thing because now it is the rainy season and I get bitten by mosquitoes a lot. They are an interesting variety, too…. They are really quiet and fast and bite you without you realizing it until you start itching. I have never even heard a buzzing from a mosquito here at all, but I can testify their bites itch!
I didn’t realize how bad malaria was until Kathy had it while she stayed here the past few weeks. She had contracted it years ago when she was in Kenya and once you get it in your blood you never get rid of it. It can reappear later as did happen with her. I am including some interesting facts on malaria for you to read:
Malaria is a long-lasting disease of the blood. It is transmitted to people by mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite. The malaria parasite attacks the blood and causes recurring chills, fever, and sometimes jaundice and anemia. In the United States, the main risk is to persons traveling to tropical and subtropical countries where malaria is a problem.
Forty-one percent of the world's population live in areas where malaria is transmitted (e.g., parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola, and Oceania).
An estimated 700,000-2.7 million persons die of malaria each year, 75% of them African children.
In areas of Africa with high malaria transmission, an estimated 990,000 people died of malaria in 1995 – over 2700 deaths per day, or 2 deaths per minute.
In 2002, malaria was the fourth cause of death in children in developing countries, after perinatal conditions (conditions occurring around the time of birth), lower respiratory infections (pneumonias), and diarrheal diseases. Malaria caused 10.7% of all children's deaths in developing countries.
In Malawi in 2001, malaria accounted for 22% of all hospital admissions, 26% of all outpatient visits, and 28% of all hospital deaths. Not all people go to hospitals when sick or having a baby, and many die at home. Thus the true numbers of death and disease caused by malaria are likely much higher.
No vaccine against malaria is available. Travelers can protect themselves by using anti-mosquito measures and by taking drugs to prevent malaria.
How is malaria spread? A person gets malaria from the bite of an infected female mosquito. The mosquito bite injects young forms of the malaria parasite into the person's blood. The parasites travel through the person's bloodstream to the liver, where they grow to their next stage of development. In 6 to 9 days, the parasites leave the liver and enter the bloodstream again. They invade the red blood cells, finish growing, and begin to multiply quickly. The number of parasites increases until the red blood cells burst, releasing thousands of parasites into the person's bloodstream. The parasites attack other red blood cells, and the cycle of infection continues, causing the common signs and symptoms of malaria.
When a non-infected mosquito bites an infected person, the mosquito sucks up parasites from the person's blood. The mosquito is then infected with the malaria parasites. The parasites go through several stages of growth in the mosquito. When the mosquito bites someone else, that person will become infected with malaria parasites, and the cycle will begin again.
Malaria parasites can also be transmitted by transfusion of blood from an infected person or by the use of needles or syringes contaminated with the blood of an infected person.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria? People with malaria typically have cycles of chills, fever, and sweating that recur every 1, 2, or 3 days. The attack of the malaria parasites on the person's red blood cells makes the person's temperature rise and the person feel hot. The subsequent bursting of red blood cells makes the person feel cold and have hard, shaking chills. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea often go along with the fever. The destruction of red blood cells can also cause jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) and anemia.
Kathy’s words to us, “You don’t ever want to experience this disease for yourself. Take it from me, it is the sickest I have EVER felt in my life!”
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear? The time between a mosquito bite and the start of illness is usually 7 to 21 days, but some types of malaria parasites take much longer to cause symptoms. When infection occurs by blood transfusion, the time to the start of symptoms depends on the number of parasites in the transfusion.
What complications can result from malaria? Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum can cause kidney or liver failure, coma, and death. Although infections with other malaria parasites cause less serious illness, parasites can remain inactive in the liver and cause a reappearance of symptoms months or even years later.
What is the treatment for malaria? The treatment for malaria depends on where a person is infected with the disease. Different areas of the world have malaria types that are resistant to certain medicines. The correct drugs for each type of malaria must be prescribed by a doctor.
Infection with Plasmodium falciparum is a medical emergency. About 2% of persons infected with falciparum malaria die, usually because of delayed treatment.