Malaria is a Life-Threatening Disease

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Malaria is life threatening disease.Mosquito bites

Malaria is a Life-Threatening Disease

How does Malaria Spread?

It is a life-threatening disease that occurs mainly in tropical countries. This is preventable and curable. However, without prompt diagnosis and effective treatment, uncomplicated malaria cases can progress to severe disease. These often result in death if left untreated. This is not contagious and one cannot catch it from another person.

A female Anopheles mosquito transmits the disease through her bite. Five parasite species can cause malaria in humans. Two of which pose the greatest threat: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. There are over 400 different species of Anopheles mosquitoes. About 40 known vector species can carry the disease. It can also vary seasonally, with tropical countries having the highest risk during the rainy season.

Malaria is life threatening disease.Mosquito bites
Malaria is life life-threatening disease. Mosquito bites

Who is at risk of malaria?

This disease threatens almost half of the world’s population. An estimated 247 million people in 85 countries were infected with it.  About 619,000 lives were claimed by the disease in the same year. Some people are more susceptible to developing severe malaria than others. Babies and children under the age of five, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS are particularly at risk. Other vulnerable groups include people entering areas of high malaria transmission. People who have not acquired partial immunity from long-term exposure to the disease. Those receiving chemo-preventive therapy, such as immigrants, migrant populations, and travelers.

In areas where it is endemic, some people acquire partial immunity. However, complete protection is not possible. Partial immunity reduces the risk of this infection causing serious illness. For this reason, most malaria deaths in Africa are among young children.  All age groups are at risk in areas of low transmission and low immunity.

 Symptoms, and their diagnosis

Within 10 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, the first symptoms of the disease typically appear. Fever, headache, and chills are common. These symptoms are mild and difficult to identify as malaria. In areas where it is endemic, people with partial immunity can become infected without showing symptoms (asymptomatic infection). The WHO recommends an immediate diagnosis if Plasmodium falciparum is suspected. If not treated within 24 hours, the infection caused by Plasmodium falciparum can lead to serious illness and death.

Severe disease can cause multiple organ failures in adults, and children. They often suffer from severe anemia, respiratory distress, or cerebral malaria. Human malaria caused by other species of Plasmodium can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. Tests can diagnose the presence of parasites that cause the disease. The two main tests are blood smear microscopy and rapid diagnostic testing. Diagnostic tests allow healthcare providers to distinguish malaria from other causes of febrile illness and facilitate appropriate treatment.

What are the Available Treatments?

It is treatable. The most effective antimalarial drug currently available is combination therapy (ACT). It is the mainstay of recommended treatment for Plasmodium falciparum. This is the world’s deadliest malaria parasite. ACT combines two active ingredients with different mechanisms of action. It includes a derivative of artemisinin and a partner drug derived from the Artemisia annua plant. The role of the artemisinin compound is to reduce the number of parasites in the first three days of treatment. The part of the partner drug is to eliminate any remaining parasites. Since no alternative to artemisinin derivatives has existed for several years, ACT efficacy must be maintained.

Therefore, WHO recommends treating ACT only if the malaria test is positive. We do not support the fact that, over the past decade, parasite resistance to antimalarial drugs has become a threat in the fight against this disease, especially in the Greater Mekong region. WHO is also concerned about reports of drug-resistant malaria in Africa. Three of the five human malaria species, including Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, have been identified as having resistance to date. However, almost all patients infected with artemisinin-resistant parasites treated with ACT are completely cured if the partner drug is highly effective.

Where is this disease most common?

It is more common in tropical and subtropical countries. In the WHO Africa Region, the parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes the majority of cases and deaths. This parasite is also dominant in other malaria hotspots. Regions in the Western Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia are also included. In the WHO Region of the Americas, the parasite Plasmodium vivax predominates, causing 75% of malaria cases.

The threat of this disease was highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Four countries in the region accounted for nearly half of all global malaria deaths in 2021: Nigeria (26.6%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.3%), Uganda (5.1%), and Mozambique (4.1%). In the WHO Africa Region, the majority of cases and deaths from the parasite Plasmodium falciparum occurred. Almost all of these cases are caused by this parasite.

How Can Malaria Be Prevented?

It is a preventable disease. 1. Vector control intervention is the most important approach to preventing the disease and reducing transmission. Two forms of vector control are effective for people living in countries where it is endemic. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets protect people from mosquito bites and kill mosquitoes attempting to bite, even on interior walls, eaves, and ceilings of houses and other structures. For travelers, insect nets are the most realistic vector control measure. WHO maintains a list of vector control products that have been tested for safety, efficacy, and quality.

Chemo prevention:  Some antimalarial drugs, developed to treat those with the disease, can also be used to prevent it in the first place. Current WHO recommendations for the disease are chemoprevention. This is for the people living in endemic areas including intermittent malaria prevention during pregnancy, perennial malaria chemoprevention, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, and post-hospital malaria chemoprevention. Chemoprevention and intermittent malaria prophylactic treatment in school-age children. Travelers are given chemo-preventive agents before entering malaria-endemic areas. These agents are highly effective when used in combination with insecticide-treated bed nets.

Is there a vaccine available?

RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) is the first and only vaccine. It significantly reduces the disease in young children living in areas with moderate to high disease areas. It is effective against Plasmodium falciparum. The world’s deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent in Africa.

In 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi began rolling out vaccines in selected regions as part of a large-scale pilot program coordinated by the WHO. The program has demonstrated that the RTS-S vaccine is safe, effective, and can be delivered through routine immunization services. As of March 2023, over 1.3 million children had received at least one vaccination under this program. Twenty-nine African countries have expressed interest in introducing the vaccines as part of their national malaria control strategies. In October 2021, the WHO recommended the use of the RTS-S vaccine for children living in moderately and highly malaria-affected areas. This recommendation is based on the complete package of RTS and S evidence, including the results of an ongoing pilot program.

How is Malaria eradicable?

The vision of WHO and the global malaria community is a world without malaria. Countries will gradually realize this vision. If they take effective measures to eradicate it from their territories and prevent reinfection. Malaria-endemic countries are at various stages of their journey to eradication.

The rate of progress includes the strength of a country’s health system. Their level of investment in malaria control strategies. It includes the biological determinants, environment, social, demographic, political, and economic realities of a given country. Over the past two decades, we have made great strides toward eradicating the disease. According to the latest World Malaria Report, from 6 countries in 2000. There were less than 100 cases of the disease in 27 countries in 2020.

Countries with no localized cases of the disease (localized cases without evidence of importation from another endemic country) for at least 3 consecutive years are eligible to apply for WHO accreditation for malaria elimination.  The WHO Director-General has named in 2015, 11 countries, among them the Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018), Uzbekistan (2018), and Argentina (2019). Malaria-free certification Algeria (2019),  El Salvador (2021), China (2021), Azerbaijan (2023), and Tajikistan (2023).

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