When you have malaria

The Manica Post - - Health - Dr Tendai Zuze Health Mat­ters

MALARIA is a dis­ease caused by a par­a­site, trans­mit­ted by the bite of in­fected mos­qui­toes. It kills an es­ti­mated one mil­lion peo­ple each year world­wide and hun­dreds lo­cally. Be­cause of the re­cent rains, there is an ex­pected up­surge in the cases of malaria we will see.

The fol­low­ing symp­toms should get you at least wor­ried about the pos­si­bil­ity of malaria:

◆ mod­er­ate to se­vere shak­ing chills

◆ high fever

◆ pro­fuse sweat­ing as body tem­per­a­ture falls

◆ headache

◆ vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea Malaria signs and symp­toms typ­i­cally be­gin within a few weeks af­ter be­ing bit­ten by an in­fected mosquito. How­ever, some types of malaria par­a­sites can lie silently in your body for months, or even years.

Malaria is caused by a type of mi­cro­scopic par­a­site that’s trans­mit­ted most com­monly by mosquito bites. The malaria par­a­site may also rarely be trans­mit­ted from mother to un­born child, through blood trans­fu­sions and shar­ing drug in­jec­tion nee­dles.

Peo­ple who visit and live in ar­eas where malaria is com­mon are at big­gest risk of de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease. If you grew up in a malaria area, you will have some nat­u­ral im­mu­nity to the dis­ease which will lessen the sever­ity of malaria symp­toms. There are many dif­fer­ent sub­types of malaria par­a­sites un­for­tu­nately the type found in Zim­babwe causes the most lethal com­pli­ca­tions and death.

Young chil­dren and in­fants, trav­ellers from ar­eas with­out malaria and preg­nant women are prone to se­vere forms of malaria and death. Poverty, lack of knowl­edge, and lit­tle or no ac­cess to health care also con­trib­ute to malaria deaths world­wide.

Up to 90 per­cent of malaria deaths oc­cur in Africa and in most cases, malaria deaths are re­lated to one or more of these se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions:

◆ Cere­bral malaria. If par­a­site-filled blood cells block small blood ves­sels to your brain (cere­bral malaria), swelling of your brain or brain dam­age may oc­cur. Cere­bral malaria may cause coma.

◆ Breath­ing prob­lems. Ac­cu­mu­lated fluid in your lungs (pul­monary oedema) can make it dif­fi­cult to breathe.

◆ Or­gan fail­ure. Malaria can cause your kid­neys or liver to fail, or your spleen to rup­ture. Any of these con­di­tions can be life-threat­en­ing.

◆ Se­vere anaemia. Malaria dam­ages red blood cells, which can re­sult in se­vere anaemia.

◆ Low blood sugar. Se­vere forms of malaria it­self can cause low blood sugar, as can qui­nine — one of the most com­mon med­i­ca­tions used to com­bat malaria. Very low blood sugar can re­sult in coma or death. There are var­i­ous blood tests to de­ter­mine whether you have malaria, which type and whether the dis­ease has af­fected any of your vi­tal or­gans. Treat­ment de­pends on the type of par­a­site present and other fac­tors like sever­ity of symp­toms and your age. Drugs used in Zim­babwe in­clude co-artemether, ASAQ and qui­nine. Re­sis­tance to chloro­quine and fan­si­dar has ren­dered them al­most use­less and these are now used for other con­di­tions. In coun­tries like ours where malaria is com­mon, pre­ven­tion in­volves keep­ing mos­qui­toes away from hu­mans. The fol­low­ing mea­sures would be use­ful:

◆ Spray­ing your home. Treat­ing your home’s walls with in­sec­ti­cide can help kill adult mos­qui­toes that come in­side.

◆ Sleep­ing un­der a net. Bed nets, par­tic­u­larly those treated with in­sec­ti­cide, are es­pe­cially rec­om­mended for preg­nant women and young chil­dren.

◆ Cov­er­ing your skin. Dur­ing ac­tive mosquito times, usu­ally from dusk to dawn, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts.

◆ Spray­ing cloth­ing and skin. Var­i­ous sprays are avail­able for cloth­ing and skin to re­pel mos­qui­toes. Dif­fer­ent types of drugs can also be used to pre­vent malaria es­pe­cially when one is trav­el­ling to a high malaria area.

◆ If you think you have malaria, please visit your doc­tor.

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