Last Updated : 5/9/2005
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Ira Shah
What is the malaria ?
Malaria is the one of the world's most dreaded disease spread by mosquitoes. It is very common in tropical countries. Malaria is caused by a germ called as plasmodium. There are 4 types of plasmodium species that can cause 4 types of malaria namely: Vivax malaria, Falciparum malaria, Ovale malaria and malariae malaria.
In India vivax malaria and falciparum malaria is seen.

How does malaria spread ?
Malaria is present only in mosquitoes and man. Thus, wherever there are mosquitoes, malaria will be rampant. Mostly it spreads in monsoon season when water tends to pool. These pooled water are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and these mosquitoes can lead to malaria. Malaria spreads by the bite of a particular mosquito called as anopheles mosquito. A female anopheles mosquito carries the malaria germ in its saliva and whenever it bites human beings, it transmits the malaria parasites and leads to infection in humans. These malaria parasites then go to the liver and increase in number and then infect the red cells in the blood. Every time the red cells are destroyed, more parasites are released in the circulation and a child with get fever with shivering and chills.

What are the symptoms of malaria ?
Most of the patients with malaria have high grade fever with chills and rigors. Some children may have stomach pain, diarrhea, cough and vomiting. In young children, rigors and chills may not be seen. Falciparum malaria is one of the dangerous malaria and can lead to complications as it can affect the brain (cerebral malaria), can lead to jaundice, kidney failure and even lung failure. Untreated falciparum malaria can lead to death and hence needs to be treated aggressively and urgently.

How is diagnosis of malaria made ?
Diagnosis of malaria can be made by certain blood tests and demonstration of the malaria parasite in the blood smear. Certain dipsticks are now available that can detect both vivax and falciparum malaria in 5 minutes and can be done bedside by even a non-doctor.

How is malaria treated ?
Malaria is a 100% treatable disease and if your child is diagnosed in early stage, than it can cured on OPD basis treatment. Treatment of malaria consists of antimalarial medicine such as chloroquine. It has mild side effects like nausea; vomiting and can lead to bad taste. Now-a-days, chloroquine has been found to be ineffective in lot of areas due to resistance and in these areas other drugs such as quinine, mefloquine and other agents have been used.

How can malaria be prevented ?
Avoid pooling of water that can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In monsoon season, use curtain at sleeping time or mosquito quail or mosquito nets and mosquito coils. Application of mosquito repellants such as DEET can help to prevent mosquito bites when outdoors.

If a traveler wishes to visit an area that has a high incidence of malaria, what precautions should he take?
If a traveler is coming to an area with high endemicity of malaria, then he should start chloroquine (once a week) at least one week prior to coming to that country and continue taking it for at least 4 weeks after he leaves the area. In addition he should take the general precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

Is there any vaccine to prevent malaria ?
There are various efforts to develop vaccines for malaria. However, they are still not found to be effective. However in the near future, vaccine for malaria can be expected.

Contributor Information and Disclosures Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India.

First Created : 4/2/2001
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