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Travel health - Malaria

07-06-2011 | Source | Central Point
What is malaria? Malaria is a disease which is widespread in many tropical and subtropical countries and it can be very serious and sometimes fatal. Malaria is caught by being bitten by a mosquito carrying the malaria parasites in its saliva. There are four kinds of malaria that can infect humans: Plasmodium falciparum, is the cause of malignant malaria, which is more fatal then the rest and is more likely to kill. Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae cause more benign types of malaria and aren`t as serious.

Malaria is spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito.

Where does malaria occur?
Malaria occurs in over 100 countries where the Anopheles - mosquito lives; i.e. particularly in hot, humid climates. More than 40% of the people in the world are at risk. Large areas of Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania are considered malaria-risk areas.

How do you catch malaria?
Humans get malaria from the bite of a malaria-infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it ingests microscopic malaria parasites found in the personís blood. The parasites develop in the intestine and salivary glands of the mosquito and can be passed on to other people the next time the mosquito bites. The parasites travel to the personís liver, enter the liverís cells, grow and multiply.

Malaria can also be passed on by blood transfusions and the use of infected needles.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice because of the loss of red blood cells.

Normally, 10 to 15 days go by between being infected and the onset of the disease. But it may be longer if the patient has taken a preventive medicine.

In malignant malaria the illness may evolve with a number of complications: Low blood pressure (hypotension), kidney failure, bleeding.

How is malaria diagnosed?
Malaria is diagnosed by blood tests. Blood will be put onto a microscope slide and stained so that the parasites will be visible under a microscope.

Any traveler who has been to a malaria-risk area and becomes ill should go see their doctor immediately even if it has been a year since you were last there.

How can malaria be prevented?
Before visiting tropical and subtropical countries it is important to investigate the chances of catching malaria.
Visit your Doctor at least 4-6 weeks before you travel for any vaccinations and advice on various diseases.
Take your anti-malarial drug exactly on schedule usually you will have to begin taking them 2 weeks before your trip begins and at least 2 weeks after you return.
Stock up on lots of insect repellent and make sure that all skin exposed is covered with repellent.
Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn. This is the time when mosquitoes that spread malaria bite.
Sleep under a mosquito net.

What treatment is available for malaria?
The treatment of malaria normally calls for admission to hospital, as it may be malignant malaria, which can have a fatal outcome in only a few days. Other wise malaria can be cured with proscribed tablets. The type of tablets and length of treatment depend on which kind of malaria is diagnosed, where the patient was infected, the age of the patient, and how severely ill the patient was at start of treatment.


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