Malaria is a disease which has existed for more than fifty years. Malaria is believed to have affected people during the ancient world. For example, in 2700 BC, some cases of malaria were reported in China. The Roman Empire was also plagued by malaria. In Rome, it was referred to as the Roman fever. Thus, “the term malaria originated from the Medieval Italian word: mala aria meaning bad air” (Randall 24). Initially, malaria was pervasive in Europe and some parts of America especially in the north, however, few cases of this disease have been reported at present. Since 1896, scientific research has been conducted to establish the nature of malaria. Although malaria is closely linked with poverty, it also leads to poverty. This is because it hinders economic progress in many countries especially in Africa where it is endemic.
At present, tropical regions register the highest percentages of malaria infections, but some temperate regions also experience malaria infections. Poverty serves as both a cause and impact of malaria. This is because poor individuals lack resources to curb and cure malaria. The economy is also affected since many resources are channeled toward dealing with malaria. Demographic transition has also stagnated in places like Africa where malaria has not been properly handled. Besides this, child mortality is relatively high in malaria infested regions.
Causes of Malaria
Plasmodium parasites are responsible for malaria infections among humans, birds, and animals. In humans, “malaria is caused by P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale, P. vivax and P. knowlesi” (Zimmerman 45). Nonetheless, malaria infections are primarily caused by P. Vivax. On the other hand, P. falciparum is extremely lethal, and it causes majority of malaria deaths. Humans and some vertebrates act as intermediate hosts of parasites. Anopheles mosquitoes serve as the major hosts, and they also act as key transmission vectors. Female mosquitoes usually transmit the parasites because they feed on blood. Male mosquitoes do not participate in transmission of vectors because they eat plant nectars, and they do not rely on blood meals. Apart from mosquitoes, blood transfusion may also lead to transmission of malaria, but this occurs rarely.
Malaria often recurs among patients who have received medication because of the following factors. In some cases, some parasites may not be completely destroyed through treatment. Hence, they can multiply and trigger another infection. This mode of infection is known as recrudescence. Secondly, malaria re-infection often occurs when an individual is exposed to the parasites after treatment. Relapse is the third mode of infection. “It is specific to P. vivax and P. ovale and involves re-emergence of blood-stage parasites from latent parasites in the liver” (Zimmerman 56).
Development of malaria takes place in two phases. The first one is known as exoerythrocytic phase, which is characterized by liver infection. The second level is known as erythrocytic phase, and the parasites infect and damage the red blood cells. After a mosquito bite, the pathogens are transmitted to the liver through the blood stream. “Once in the liver, the organisms differentiate to yield thousands of merozoites, which escape into the blood stream and infect the red blood cells, thus beginning the erthrocytic stage of the life cycle” (Sutherland 551). After this, an infected individual starts experiencing the symptoms which include the following.
Signs and symptoms
“Symptoms of malaria include fever, shivering, vomiting, anemia, retinal damage and convulsions” (Webb 134). An infected individual may experience sweating followed by sudden coldness especially in a case where one is infected by P.vivax. In some cases, an individual may experience abdominal pain. Besides this, victims of malaria infection may also sustain cognitive impairments, and this majorly occurs among children. Retinal whitening is a distinct symptom among individuals having cerebral malaria infections. At an advanced stage, a malaria patient experience a coma, and a patient can easily die due to serious body malfunctioning caused by acute damage of blood cells. Plasmodium falciparum is more dangerous than other malaria parasites because it causes severe malaria that is not easily treated.
Blood examination conducted through laboratory procedures is the main way of diagnosing malaria. A part from blood analysis, urine and saliva can also be used as alternative samples for diagnosis of malaria, but they are less invasive specimens. Antigen tests are among the new mechanisms for conducting clinical examination for malaria. In areas where laboratory tests are absent, analysis of the common symptoms such as subjective fever can be used to identify the presence of malaria in a patient.
A malaria patient is able to recover completely if he or she receives proper medication. The manner malaria treatment is administered depends on the severity of the infection. For instance, oral drugs can be applied in treating normal malaria infections. Anti-malarial drugs are mainly used in cases of severe infection. Support measures are also important for seriously infected individuals. Chlroquine and quinine have been commonly used, but more effective drugs with few side effects have been introduced. “Use of prophylactic drugs is seldom practical for full-time residents of malaria-endemic regions” (Webb 245).
Apart from treatment, various mechanisms can be used to reduce the spread of malaria parasites, and they include the following. Malaria can best be dealt with through elimination of mosquitoes. For example, vector control initiatives were successful in the eradication of malaria especially in Europe and America. Draining of wetlands is also important in this process because it reduces the rate of mosquito breeding. Better sanitation and pesticide DDT have also contributed to a significant reduction of mosquito breeding.
“Before DDT, malaria was successfully eradicated or controlled in several tropical areas by removing or poisoning the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes or the aquatic habitats of the larva stages” (Webb 89). Another viable method of curbing malaria that was recently discovered is called sterile insect technique. This involves creating transgenic mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria. This procedure will gradually make mosquitoes less harmful since most of them will no longer participate in vector transmission. Researchers from Arizona University have also made a noble contribution toward malaria elimination by engineering mosquitoes that cannot be affected by malaria.
Indoor residual spraying involves the use of insecticides to eliminate mosquitoes which inhabit homes. In this case, interior parts of residential houses can be sprayed with insecticides, and it has been recommended for people living in highly infested areas. Besides this, mosquito nets are also useful in enhancing protection of people from potential malaria infections. People should also be sensitized on how to deal with malaria related challenges.
The above discussion reveals that malaria has been a challenge to humans for a long time. In this case, many measures have been taken to deal with it. Malaria has been eliminated successfully in some regions, but it has remained endemic especially in the third world. This is because poor countries are still not prepared to eliminate it. Apart from causing many annual death cases, malaria has posed a great challenge on the entire world economy. This is because many resources have been diverted towards dealing with it. Scientist should, therefore, strive to formulate sustainable solutions for malaria. For instance, they can develop better drugs and vaccines to enhance the elimination of malaria. Last but more importantly, everyone should remain committed in the fight against malaria.