What is malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening disease. It’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Infected mosquitoes carry the Plasmodium parasite. When this mosquito bites you, the parasite is released into your bloodstream.
Once the parasites are inside your body, they travel to the liver, where they mature. After several days, the mature parasites enter the bloodstream and begin to infect red blood cells. Within 48 to 72 hours, the parasites inside the red blood cells multiply, causing the infected cells to burst open.
The parasites continue to infect red blood cells, resulting in symptoms that occur in cycles that last two to three days at a time.
symptoms of malaria:
- Dry cough
- Muscle or back pain or both
- Enlarged spleen.
- loss of consciousness.
- shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe
- high fever
- profuse sweating
- muscle pain
- bloody stools
How Is Malaria Diagnosed?
Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria. During your appointment, your doctor will review your health history, including any recent travel to tropical climates. A physical exam will also be performed. Your doctor will be able to determine if you have an enlarged spleen or liver. If you have symptoms of malaria, your doctor may order additional blood tests to confirm your diagnosis. These tests will show:
- whether or not you have malaria
- what type of malaria you have
- if your infection is caused by a parasite that’s resistant to certain types of drugs
- if the disease has caused anemia
- if the disease has affected your vital organs
Life-Threatening Complications of Malaria
- swelling of the blood vessels of the brain, or cerebral malaria
- an accumulation of fluid in the lungs that causes breathing problems, or pulmonary edema
- organ failure of the kidneys, liver, or spleen
- anemia due to the destruction of red blood cells
- low blood sugar
How Is Malaria Treated?
Tips to Prevent Malaria
Talk to your doctor about long-term prevention if you live in an area where malaria is common. Sleeping under a mosquito net may help prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito. Covering your skin or using bug sprays containing DEET may also help prevent infection. If you’re unsure if malaria is prevalent in your area, the CDC has an up-to-date map of where malaria can be found.