Individuals contract Malaria when they are bitten by a mosquito that is infected with a malaria parasite. After becoming infected, the malaria parasite lives in the red blood cells of humans. Since the parasite is in a person’s blood, the disease can also be transmitted to other people through blood transfusions, organ transplantation or using the same needle and syringe as a person who is infected.
Pregnant women can also pass the disease on to their child before or during birth. Malaria is a serious threat in warm tropical and subtropical areas, such as parts of Africa and Oceania. People who travel to these areas of the world should take precautions to protect themselves from contracting the disease.
Malaria symptoms will usually begin between one to two weeks after the mosquito bite, but it can take up to one month for signs to appear. Early symptoms consist of having a fever with a headache and feeling extremely cold. Individuals will then break out into a sweat and this cycle, along with feeling fatigued, can last for 6 to 12 hours.
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be present. As the disease intensifies, it can impact numerous systems in the body. When this occurs symptoms may accelerate to seizures, breathing problems, liver or kidney failure, anemia, confusion, cardiovascular issues and unconsciousness due to swelling of the brain.
The specific treatment for malaria depends on the parasite species, drug resistance, a person’s age, the seriousness of the condition and if the individual is pregnant.
Common medications for treating malaria include quinine, chloroquine, mefloquine and a combination of atovaquone and proguanil. Medications may be administered intravenously or taken orally in pill form. Individuals who are quickly diagnosed and receive the proper treatment can expect to recover from malaria.