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Malaria

Information about the causes, symptoms and treatments for malaria

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Dr Hilary Jones discusses malaria and the treatments available at HealthExpress

Malaria poses one of the biggest risks to people travelling abroad. Malaria is still considered to be the most dangerous disease on the planet, causing more deaths every year than any other infection. Fortunately with the right care and precautions, it is possible to greatly reduce the infection risk. We at HealthExpress wish to provide you with the best information and treatment possible, so that you can avoid this virus along with any potential risks associated with it.

HealthExpress offers a free online consultation, which can help you to find the right malaria tablets to protect you from infection wherever you go in the world. It is also essential to ensure that you visit a traffic clinic, and take the necessary vaccinations before travelling, as these could also help to prevent the risk of contracting all sorts of infections or viruses whilst abroad. There are prescription medication available that are proven to help effectively prevent malaria if used properly before travelling.

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Doxycycline  Actavis

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What is malaria?

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal tropical blood disease caused by a parasite called plasmodium that is transferred by an anopheles mosquito; this single-cell organism lives in the anopheles species of mosquito. Malaria is so easy to contract as it is most commonly contracted through a mosquito bite when visiting foreign countries.

When a person is bitten by a mosquito, the malaria parasite is exchanged during the blood exchange entering the bloodstream and quickly migrating to the liver, where they multiply before being released into the bloodstream.

Here they begin invading the red blood cells and multiply until they burst, releasing large numbers of parasites into the bloodstream that infect other red blood cells and repeat the process. This whole process does not take a long time to occur and usually results in the symptoms associated with malaria such as a very heavy fever, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The malaria parasite depends on both humans and mosquitoes to carry out its deadly cycle of life. Infected mosquito bites a human. Parasite rapidly goes to liver within 30 minutes. The
parasite starts reproducing rapidly in liver. Some parasites lie dormant in the liver and become activated years after initial infections.
Gets into the blood stream, attaches and enters red blood cells. Further reproduction occurs. Infected red blood cells brust, infecting other blood cells. This repeating cycle depletes the body of oxygen and also causes fever. The cycle coincides with malaria's fever and chills. After release, a dormant version of malaria travels through the host's blood stream, waiting to be ingested by another mosquito to carry it to a new host. dormant parasites

Causes of malaria

Malaria was first discovered as a harmful blood parasite in 1880, with nearly 3 billion people at risk of malaria. The main cause of malaria - the parasite plasmodium, is a small, single-cell organism that can be spread to humans via the bites of infected mosquitos.

There are over 100 types of plasmodium parasites, but five are identified to commonly infect humans and have various effects on the carrier.

1 Plasmodium. falciparum - this parasite is located in tropical and suburban areas, but predominantly located within the African sub saharan regions. Around 1 million people are killed each year as a result of this parasitic strain, and has it can multiply rapidly, most patients are unaware of its deadly impact until it's too late. falciparum
2 Plasmodium. ovale - located mainly in west Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines, this parasite is biologically and morphologically very similar to P. vivax and P. falciparum but is rare compared to both and is less dangerous in effect than P. falciparum. It is reported to cause around 15 million of malaria cases each year. ovale
3 Plasmodium. vivax - located mostly in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, it is arguably the most widespread malaria parasite in the world. Fortunately it is not as deadly as p.falciparum This strain has an increasing number of reported cases and can also cause severe health complications months or years after initial infection, if not treated properly. vivax
4 Plasmodium. knowlesi - mainly situated in Southeast Asia, it is predominantly a parasite that infects monkeys, but can also affect humans. Known to have a 24 hour cycle, this strain can multiply rapidly once a patient is infected, this therefore makes it one of the most deadly parasitic strains fatal cases of this strain have been reported. knowlesi
5 Plasmodium. malariae - this strain is located worldwide and the only human malaria parasite to cause three-day symptoms. If left untreated it can cause a long-term, chronic infection although it is milder than some of the other parasitic plasmodium. malariae

Symptoms of malaria

As it multiplies and spreads through the body, malaria usually starts in the form of flu and fever like symptoms. The incubation period (the time of infection until the appearance of symptoms) for each parasite type usually differs:

  • 9 to 14 days for P. falciparum.
  • 12 to 18 days for P. vivax and P. ovale.
  • 18 to 40 days for P. malariae.
  • 11 to 12 days for P. knowlesi.[1]

During the early stages symptoms that can be experienced are very similar to that of severe influenza.

  • Chills
  • Shakes
  • Headaches
  • Muscles aching
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Because of the loss of red blood cells, malaria can also lead to jaundice and anaemia, however the vast majority are treated before it reaches this stage. Certain cases have also reported increased back pain and an enlarged spleen.

The plasmodium falciparum being the most dangerous of the plasmodium malaria parasites can potentially create more dangerous symptoms, leading to kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion and coma.[2]

Benefits of treating malaria

There are a number of significant benefits that can be experienced when treating Malaria. These benefits can include the following:

  • You can avoid serious complications, such as severe anaemia and cerebral malaria
  • If malaria is treated promptly, virtually everyone can be successfully treated
  • Feverish attacks and influenza-like symptoms can be avoided
  • Serious risks associated with pregnancy, such as premature birth and miscarriage can be successfully avoided
  • Once the malaria virus has been treated, you will once again be fit for travel

Where is malaria most common

Malaria is most common in hot and humid climates, where the anopheles mosquito lives and thrives. Hotspots in the world where there is a high risk of malaria include:

  • North Africa
  • The Middle East
  • South and Central Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Central and South America
  • The Caribbean
  • Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu (Oceania)

The fatal plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite is more prevalent in Africa, but is also found in Latin America, Asia and Oceania.

Prevention for malaria

There are a number of basic steps you should take when attempting to prevent malaria.

  • Mosquito repellent creams will help to prevent bites by repelling mosquitoes. The most effective repellents contain DEET (diethyltoluamide)
  • Prescribed medication to prevent malaria
  • Products that contain eucalyptus oil can also be effective
  • There are also certain sunscreens that can prevent against insect bites
  • A mosquito net treated with insecticide is also highly recommended for when you are sleeping, as mosquitoes are most active when it's dark

How to treat Malaria

While taking simple precautions is important, the most successful way to prevent infection is with malaria tablets. There currently isn't a vaccine available to prevent malaria; therefore prescription medication is the best option. Malaria tablets work by preventing the parasites' ability to reproduce, allowing your body to neutralise the infection.[3]

All antimalarial drugs need to be started before you leave for your destination, and also need to be taken for a short period after you return. Malaria can sometimes take 10 - 15 days to cause symptoms after the infection. In rare cases, it can lie dormant for more than a year, although fortunately the most dangerous strain is not known to do this.

Which treatment you need will depend largely on where you are travelling. For lower risk areas such as India, a treatment of Paludrine & Avloclor is recommended. For higher risk areas, either Doxycycline or Malarone can be prescribed. Both of these treatments are considered to be effective against the most dangerous form of the virus.

What are the options we have to offer for Malaria?

Malaria has the potential to be very serious, as it is regarded as the most dangerous disease on the planet, therefore prophylactic treatment is important if you are travelling to an area where malaria is a risk. Beginning a course of medication before travelling can easily prevent malaria. The antimalarials we have available, which are approved by UK registered doctors, are Doxycycline, Paludrine/Avloclor and Malarone. These Malaria treatments are clinically proven to effectively prevent Malaria and can be ordered quickly and securely online by completing our free, simple online consultation. These treatments can also be shipped by free next-day delivery or same-day delivery to ensure that you receive your medication before beginning your travels.

Sources