According to the latest World Malaria Report, there were 291 million cases of Malaria in 2017 and an estimated 435,000 deaths in the same year. Malaria is a tropical disease which is growing rampant in the context of Nepal. Due to the lack of hygiene and rapid breeding of tropical insects, the risk of malaria is increasing.
Nepal has made substantial progress in the fight against malaria, and is also identified by the WHO as one of the 21 countries to potentially eliminate malaria by 2020. However, the threat of malaria is still pretty substantial in the southern belt of Nepal during the monsoon season, which falls on the month of June, July, and August.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. There are five types of Plasmodium parasites but most of the deaths are caused by Plasmodium Vivax and Plasmodium Falciparum. Malaria is preventable and curable but it can be fatal, if not diagnosed or treated properly.
How is Malaria transmitted?
Malaria is transferred to humans through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The parasite enters the bloodstream and propagates itself to the liver, where it can breed well.
After breeding, Plasmodium parasites rupture the liver and spreads to other organs like the heart, kidney, abdomen, etc. After the rupturing takes place, symptoms of malaria are visible in a person.
What are the symptoms of Malaria?
The symptoms of malaria range from high fever to coma, seizures and losing consciousness Some of the symptoms of malaria are listed below.
- Sweating, headache, nausea, and vomiting;
- Abdominal pain, muscle pain, shaky movements and chills like fever;
- Respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria;
- Bloody stools, diarrhea; and in worse cases
- Severe anemia.
Who are under the risk of getting Malaria?
Some population groups are at a considerably higher risk of contracting malaria. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile population and travelers.
Malaria is transmitted through the release of parasites in the bloodstream. So, a baby born from infected mothers also inherits a rare type of Malaria called Congenital Malaria. Likewise, HIV/AIDS patients are also under high risk because they have a weak immune system to resist this parasite.
The risk of contracting malaria nowadays is really high because Anopheles mosquitoes are now rampant due to increasing climate change. Thus, medications should be made available in rural as well as urban areas to treat this disease and prevent the increasing number of deaths.
What are some preventive measures for Malaria
If you are going to travel to a location where malaria is common, talk to your doctor a few months ahead of time about whether you should be taking any drugs before during or after your trip to protect you from the parasite.
Here are a few more tips to prevent malaria while traveling to disease-prone areas.
1. Use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs): These nets are freely distributed to the tropical region by the Nepal government. These nets are preferred over ordinary nets because it kills as well as repels mosquitoes.
2. Cover your skin: Wear long-sleeved shirts and ankle-length pants to reduce exposure to mosquito bites while outdoors.
3. Destroy larvae of mosquitoes: A female Anopheles mosquito lays a minimum of 100 eggs in her lifetime. It is important to destroy the larvae before it develops into an actual mosquito to control the spread of malaria.
4. Rear fish and encourage the use of chemicals: Fishes eat mosquito larvae, which controls breeding thus reducing the infestation of the mosquitoes. Anopheles fosters in clean water i.e. swimming pools, reserved tanks, water jars so, use of chemicals like apple cider vinegar should be encouraged to keep mosquitoes away from the water we use.
5. Apply mosquito repellants: Antiseptic ointments and insect repellent sprays are available to prevent us from mosquito bites.
How can you treat Malaria?
Malaria is treated with prescription drugs to kill the parasite. The type of prescription medication you will be given will depend upon which malarial parasite you have, the severity of your symptoms, your age, and whether you are pregnant or have defined premedical conditions.
Most common antimalarial drugs used are Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and Chloroquine phosphate. ACT, the first line treatment for malaria, is a combination of two or more drugs that work against the malarial parasite in different ways. Chloroquine is one of the preferred treatments for any parasite that is sensitive to drugs
Other antimalarial drugs like Malarone, Qualaquin, Mefloquine are commonly prescribed to people visiting places prone to malaria. However, these medications are not 100% effective and is to be taken with additional preventive measures.
New antimalarial drugs are being researched and developed continuously. Malaria treatment is marked by the constant struggle to search for new drug formulations that are more effective. For example, one variety of the malaria parasite has shown resistance to nearly all of the available antimalarial drugs.
Planning a trip this monsoon?
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