General Health Friday April 24, 2015

We Shouldn't Forget Malaria

Recent news had been inundated with reports and figures surrounding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and for good reason. With the index case reported by researchers to have been in Guinea, the disease quickly spread across Western Africa over the next months so that, today, the infection count is estimated at approximately 25,000, with the number of deaths nearing 10,500.

Despite the severity and potency of the Ebola outbreak, though, it is important that we bear in mind the risk of other illnesses. With around 3.1 billion – about a half of the world's population - at risk of Malaria, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) it is amongst the most serious global health threats, and in 2013 alone there were around 198 million cases and an estimated 584,000 deaths. April 25th is World Malaria Day, a day designed to ensure that people do not forget or ignore a tragic issue that continues to affect millions of people all over the world.

Courtesy of

Most prevalent south of the equator, Malaria is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitos and is a prominent risk on the African continent with around 90% of the overall number of cases occurring there. Although it is still a tragic disease, fatality rates are gradually dropping with a 47% global decrease since the beginning of the millennium.

Treating the condition is often taken for granted by people living in western nations where the risk is low, and even those travelling abroad where vaccinations are required often do not consider the potential risk that would come without protection. Of course, it is natural that a person would not worry about an illness they are unlikely to get, but for those who are at risk from the disease on a daily basis it is a very different story. Early diagnosis and fast, efficient service make a huge difference in survival rates; unfortunately, though, we are not yet in a position where this kind of reaction is globally available.

The NHS Malaria page identifies a number of common symptoms:

  • High temperature
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle Pain
  • Diarrhoea

According to the same page, these symptoms will usually begin to occur between seven and 18 days after infection, however they also warn that in some rarer cases the infection can be present for up to a year before symptoms begin to reveal themselves.

The NHS advises that you seek advice when Malaria symptoms begin, and in particular in cases where you have travelled to an area where the virus is prevalent, even if the trip was not recent. A blood test will be used to determine whether you have the condition and treatment will start on the same day in most cases. The NHS reports a slightly higher global occurrence of Malaria than the WHO, but in any case it is vital that people understand the risks as much as possible.

If you are travelling abroad to an area where Malaria is present, then it is vital that you understand the risk, and also the prevention methods that are available to you. Though it has largely been relegated to less-developed countries - like those affected by the Ebola outbreak - Malaria is still a global danger. Indeed, with the WHO figures indicating that 3.1 billion are at risk of being affected by it, it is very much at the forefront of global health concern.

HealthExpress offers support and treatment advice for a number of travel health queries.

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