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Malaria Disease: Malaria Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Malaria Disease: Malaria Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Malaria is a parasitic disease that causes flu-like symptoms, and without treatment it leads to complication, that may cause death. It is better to take the preventive measures by identifying its causes.
Buzzle Staff
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Many people often ask what is Malaria disease? Malaria is a parasitic disease. This means that it is caused by a parasite, a tiny organism that lives in or on other organisms called a host. This parasite is from the genus Plasmodium and the host is a female mosquito of the Anopheles genus. The parasite is transferred to a potential victim when he or she is bitten by a mosquito. Though treatable and preventable, annually this disease kills 350-500 thousand around the world most victims are children who live near the Sahara area in Africa. In the United States only 1,300 cases are seen each year. This HealthHearty article on malaria symptoms, causes and treatment will cover information that will help you learn more about this dangerous disease.

Causes of Malaria
Malaria is caused by a parasite that has infected the saliva glands of a female mosquito. There are five types of Plasmodium that can infect humans. They include P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale, P. vivax and P. knowlesi. Most number of cases of malaria are caused by P. falciparum. Once a mosquito that has been infected by the parasite that has grown to a certain stage of development bites someone then that person gets malaria. If another female mosquito then bites the malaria victim, she can pass it to other people without being infected itself (that mosquito is called a vector).

Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Malaria can vary greatly, from no symptoms at all or mild to extremely serious and may even result in death. Malaria is often divided into two different categories. The first category is called the uncomplicated category and the other is complicated category.

Incubation Period of Malaria
Depending on the type of parasite the incubation period can range anywhere from 7-30 days. People who have traveled to Malaria prone areas should tell their doctor that they have done so, because even with the antimalarial drugs, some types of malaria can delay onset of symptoms for up to one year.

1. Uncomplicated Malaria
The general (but very infrequent) attack of malaria usually continues 6-10 hours. There are three phases to this and these usually return every 2 to 3 days depending upon the type of parasite.
  • The cold phase (shivering, feeling cold)
  • The hot phase (vomiting, fever, headache; convulsions in children)
  • The Sweating phase (sweating, normal temperature, sleepiness)
However, more often the patient usually has the following signs and symptoms:
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • General discomfort
  • Body aches
In some patients, one may observe enlarged spleen, fever, perspiration, general weakness. If a patient is infected with P. Falciparum, they may develop symptoms such as enlarged Liver, mild jaundice, and increase respiratory rate.

Depending upon the country and the frequency that malaria is experienced the patient will either self-medicate; as we do here in America with a cold or they will seek professional help after improper medications fail to take effect.

2. Complicated Malaria
This usually occurs where there is either low or no immunity to this disease, including locations where Malaria disease is rare or immunity is low because of other health risks. Complicated malaria results in blood and organ disorders, including fluid on the lung, and loss of kidney function.

In all areas of the world complicated Malaria disease is an emergency and should be treated as quickly and as intensely as possible because without treatment other major medical problems appear and eventually death does occur. As with other conditions pregnancy may be complicated resulting in pre-term labor or low birth-weight babies. In some extreme cases, there is a possibility of early termination of the pregnancy.

Severe Malarial Bouts
When a patients develops a serious P. falciparum infection, it results in multiple organ failure. It may even lead to abnormalities in the normal metabolism of the patient and blood. These complications include:
  • Severe anemia due to destruction of normal red blood cells
  • Presence of hemoglobin urine (hemoglobinuria)
  • Pulmonary edema and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Decrease in blood platelets that leads to blood coagulation and thrombocytopenia
  • Cardiovascular shock
  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), especially in pregnant women
Malarial Relapse
Malaria relapses are also known to happen, even months and years after the first attack. This is due to one genus of parasites having dormant stages that have been known to reactivate long after the disease has been cured. There are medications that are able to prevent this and should be started as soon after the first attack as possible.

Treatment of Malaria Disease
Laboratory tests should be performed and diagnosis of Malaria Disease should be confirmed before any treatment is started. Not doing this should be reserved only for special cases, limiting it to those situations where clear suspicion of a very extreme case is determined and lack of facilities necessitates doing so.

Treatment is determined by three specifications:
  • The species of infecting parasite - This is for three different reasons.
    • P. falciparum causes a severe and quickly progressing illness or death, while the other three species rarely are this severe.
    • P. vivax and P. ovale demand treatment for forms that remain dormant and can induce repeat infections.
    • P. falciparum and P. vivax are known for different resistance levels in different geographic areas where infections occur. For P. Falciparum rapid beginning of treatment is extremely necessary.
  • The physical state of the infected person.
  • The resistance level of the parasites determined by the place the person was when infected.
  • In addition other things to remember about the drug treatment.
  • Other ailments the patient has:
    • Pregnancy
    • Drug allergies and sensitivities.
Some antimalarial medications can be given intravenously. The usual medications for malaria are:
  • Chloroquine
  • Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine
  • Mefloquine
  • Atovaquone-proguanil
  • Quinine
  • Doxycycline
  • Artemisinin derivatives (these are usually only available outside the United States)
Malaria kills thousands of people unnecessarily. With immediate and correct treatment people are able to recover from this disease with no problem. It also must be realized that delay appearance of in symptoms is possible. Any suspected cases of malaria must be reported to health care providers. Also, in the United States it is imperative to report any cases of malaria to the CDC. You should follow all the measures to prevent malaria. This was all about malaria disease causes, symptoms and treatment. For more information, especially when traveling to malaria-prone regions, speak to a healthcare provider for more details.