What is Malaria?
Malaria is an infection caused by protozoan (aka super tiny) parasites called plasmodia. So far, there are 4 known types of plasmodium parasites that commonly cause malaria in human: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae. There other parasites that cause malaria in human, but these are rare cases.
Is Malaria life-threatening?
Malaria can be life-threatening as a result of complications arising from infection of P. falciparum. This happens as the parasite infects a person’s red blood cells, these infected cells stick to the walls of blood vessels. Eventually, the blood vessels become blocked, resulting in a stop of blood supply to vital organs, including the heart and the brain. The person may die without treatment.
Each year malaria causes more than one million deaths worldwide. Malaria is the most common cause of fever in returned travellers. In Australia alone, malarial cases has been increased in the past few years due to increased travel to endemic regions.
How do I contract Malaria? How is Malaria spread?
The malarial parasites are transmitted to humans by the bite of infected female anopheles mosquito. They are transferred from one person to another by a mosquito bite. Yes, those pesky mosquitos are responsible for the spread of the malarial parasites.
The good news? Malaria is not contagious. You can’t catch it from everyday activities including hugging, kissing or any other physical contact with someone who has Malaria. But you can still catch Malaria from someone through blood transfusions or organ transplants.
Malaria is a common problem in areas of Asia, Africa as well as Central and South America. So, if you are travelling to these areas, you need to take precautions.
Ok, what can I do to prevent it?
Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and taking anti-malarial medication. Travellers who travel to malarial prone areas should avoid outdoor activities around dusk and dawn when mosquito are most effective, use mosquito repellents on exposed skin, sleep in screened rooms or mosquito nets which are treated with repellents or insecticides.
Before leaving for an area where malaria is a risk, visit your doctor. Normally, antimalarial medications are taken few days before the travel and continued for one to four weeks after the traveller’s returns.
How do I know if I have Malaria? What are symptoms?
Initially, there are usually no symptoms. The first symptoms are usually fever, headache and chills, which are often mild and resembles a common cold, thus difficult to detect as Malaria.
In about one to four weeks after the initial infection (i.e. the mosquito bite), the following symptoms usually develops:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Muscle pains
- Fever (which may come and go)
- Profuse sweating
- Chills and Shivering
If you feel the above symptoms up to one year after returning from trip, you should see Travel Clinic Sydney CBD doctor.
What is the treatment of Malaria?
Malaria is treated with certain types of prescribed medication. There are different types of anti-malarial medications; the length and type depend on which type of malaria is diagnosed.