Malaria is a serious disease caused by microscopic parasites. It can be fatal if not treated promptly and is a leading cause of mortality in infants and young children in impoverished countries worldwide. A major health threat in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, at present there have been no reported cases caused by mosquito bites in the United States.
In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. This could be prevented with simple premise spray treatments and permethrin-treated mosquito nets, costing less than $2 apiece! Several charities are working towards that worthy cause:
Malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes of the Anopheles species. Being a blood-borne disease, it can also be transmitted via organ transplants, blood transfusions, shared needles or from a pregnant woman to her fetus. You cannot catch malaria through casual contact with a person who has the disease.
The initial symptoms of malaria resemble those of the flu - fever, muscle aches, vomiting, chills, nausea and headaches. If you have visited a malaria-prone area and exhibit any of these symptoms up to a year later you should promptly consult with your physician.
The malaria parasite attacks the red blood cells, kidneys and liver and can cause jaundice, anemia, seizures, kidney failure and coma. Delayed treatment can lead to very serious illness or death.
Malaria can be treated with prescription medications, which vary according to the strain of malaria contracted. Malaria needs to be treated with the correct drugs and for the proper period of time. Using an innefective treatment approach can cause the disease to persist. Some varieties of malaria can go dormant, hiding in the cells of the liver only to reactivate months or years later. Use of the proper drugs in initial treatment will prevent these relapses. In all cases of malaria, the earlier treatment is begun, the better chances for a full recovery.
The best way to prevent Malaria is to prevent mosquito bites in countries where malaria is endemic. A combination of mosquito netting treated with Permethrin and protective clothing in conjunction with a mosquito repellant like Picaridin or Deet is considered the most effective.
Anti malarial drugs are also recommended - you should purchase them in the US prior to travelling as drugs sold abroad may not have been manufactured with the same quality controls and can include ingredients which either have not been evaluated for safety or which have been pulled from production in the US due to safety concerns.
Consult with your medical provider prior to taking any medication.