UN­DER THE MI­CRO­SCOPE

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

Malaria is trans­mit­ted by the saliva of in­fected mos­qui­toes when they bite hu­mans. Par­a­sites in the saliva en­ter the blood­stream, and in­vade red blood cells. They mul­ti­ply inside th­ese cells and then burst out, killing the cells and in­creas­ing the in­fec­tion.

Four vari­ants of the same par­a­site cause malaria. The most com­mon are Plas­mod­ium fal­ci­parum and Plas­mod­i­um­vi­vax. While P. vi­vax is the most com­mon, caus­ing an es­ti­mated 80 per cent of cases, P. fal­ci­parum is the most deadly. The two other vari­ants are P.ovale and P.malar­iae.

While many species of mos­quito can trans­mit any of a long list of in­fec­tious dis­eases, malaria is only trans­mit­ted by 30 to 40 of the 400 dif­fer­ent species of mos­quito in the Anophe­les genus— it­self just one of 41 gen­era (the plu­ral of genus) that make up the Culi­ci­dae fam­ily in which mos­qui­toes are clas­si­fied.

Malaria is not a threat in Aus­tralia, but there was an out­break in Queens­land in 2002 and the far north is con­sid­ered re­cep­tive to the dis­ease be­ing rein­tro­duced.

World­wide 2.5 bil­lion peo­ple are at risk of malaria — about 40 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

Most deaths and in­fec­tions oc­cur in Africa, where malaria kills one child ev­ery 30 sec­onds.

Early di­ag­no­sis and prompt treat­ment are two ba­sic el­e­ments of malaria con­trol. This can shorten the du­ra­tion of the in­fec­tion and pre­vent fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing the great ma­jor­ity of deaths.

Long-last­ing in­sec­ti­cide-im­preg­nated bed nets, ef­fec­tive for be­tween three and five years, can be used to pro­vide pro­tec­tion to risk groups, es­pe­cially young chil­dren and preg­nant women in high trans­mis­sion ar­eas.

Preg­nant women are at high risk not only of dy­ing from the com­pli­ca­tions of se­vere malaria, but also spon­ta­neous abor­tion, pre­ma­ture de­liv­ery or still­birth.

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