Frequent Asked Question on Malaria
- What is malaria?
Malaria is a common, serious and sometimes fatal tropical disease. It is a protozoal infection transmitted to human beings by mosquitoes biting mainly between sunset and sunrise.
Human malaria is caused by four species of Plasmodium protozoa: Plasmodium falciparum, P.vivax, P.ovale and P.malariae. Malaria is a public health problem in over 100 countries worldwide,
- Is malaria a serious disease?
Yes. It has been estimated that the incidence of malaria in the world may be in the order of 300 to 500 million clinical cases each year.
Countries in tropical Africa account for more than 90% of these. Malaria mortality is estimated at almost 3 million deaths worldwide per year. The vast numbers of malaria deaths occur among young children in Africa, especially in remote rural areas with poor access to health services.
Other high risk groups include women during pregnancy, and non-immune travelers, refugees, displaced persons, or labor forces entering into endemic areas
- Who is at risk of getting malaria?
Anyone can get malaria. Most cases occur in residents of countries with malaria transmission and travelers to those countries. In non-endemic countries, cases can occur in non-travelers as congenital malaria, introduced malaria, or transfusion malaria.
- Who are the people most at risk of severe and fatal malaria?
People who are heavily exposed to the bites of mosquitoes infected with P. falciparum are most at risk of dying from malaria.
People who have little or no immunity to malaria, such as young children and pregnant women; or travelers coming from areas with no malaria, are more likely to become severely ill and die if no prompt treatment is sought.
Poor people living in rural areas who lack knowledge, money, or access to health care are more vulnerable to the disease.
As a result of all these factors, an estimated 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa south of the Sahara; most of these deaths occur in children under 5 years of age.
- What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.
Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells.
Infection with one type of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.
- How soon will a person feel sick after being bitten by an infected mosquito?
For most people, symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 7 days or as late as 1 year. Two kinds of malaria, P. vivax and P. ovale, can occur again (relapsing malaria). In P. vivax and P. ovale infections, some parasites can remain dormant in the liver for several months up to about 4 years after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. When these parasites come out of hibernation and begin invading red blood cells (“relapse”), the person will become sick.
- Is Malaria a Contagious Disease?
No. Malaria is not spread from person to person like a cold or the flu, and it cannot be sexually transmitted. You cannot get malaria from casual contact with malaria-infected people, such as sitting next to someone who has malaria.
- How do I know if I have malaria for sure?
Most people, at the beginning of the disease, have fever, sweats, chills, headaches, malaise, muscles aches, nausea, and vomiting. Malaria can very rapidly become a severe and life-threatening disease.
The surest way for you and your health-care provider to know whether you have malaria is to have a diagnostic test where a drop of your blood is examined under the microscope for the presence of malaria parasites or through rapid diagnosis test kits.
If you are sick and there is any suspicion of malaria (for example, if you have recently traveled in a country where malaria transmission occurs), the test should be performed without delay.
- Treatment of Malaria
Currently in malaria endemic countries there are effective treatment, the world Health Organization (WHO) recommends use of Artemisinin Combination Treatment (ACT). In most forms it’s a 3 day dose which should be taken as advised by the health worker. It is important to comply with the instruction and completion of the dose so that the parasite is eliminated in your system.
- Prevention of malaria
In endemic countries malaria preventable through different tools:
By making sure that you use of insecticide treated nets in every sleeping area by everyone, every night
By allowing your house or house like structures are done indoor residual spraying (IRS) by competent authority (Ministry of Health)
For pregnant women in malaria endemic zones to take Intermittent Presumptive Treatment (IPTp)
- Malaria prophylaxis
Most adults from endemic areas have a degree of long-term infection, which tends to recur, and also possess partial immunity (resistance); the resistance reduces with time, and such adults may become susceptible to severe malaria if they have spent a significant amount of time in non-endemic areas. They are strongly recommended to take full precautions if they return to an endemic area.
- Choosing a Drug to Prevent Malaria
Considerations when choosing a drug for malaria prophylaxis:
Recommendations for drugs to prevent malaria differ by country of travel and can be found in the country-specific tables of the Yellow Book. Recommended drugs for each country are listed in alphabetical order and have comparable efficacy in that country.
No anti-malarial drug is 100% protective and must be combined with the use of personal protective measures, (i.e., insect repellent, long sleeves, long pants, sleeping in a mosquito-free setting or using an insecticide-treated bed net).
For all medicines, also consider the possibility of drug-drug interactions with other medicines that the person might be taking as well as other medical contraindications, such as drug allergies.