Malaria: what are the symptoms?

In 2019, nearly 200 million people are infected with malaria and about 400,000 die from it. What is malaria and how does it manifest itself?

Malaria: what is it?

Malaria is a parasitic disease of the genus Plasmodium that affects red blood cells. It is caught by the bites of a female mosquito called anopheles. Healthy mosquitoes after biting an infected person become carriers and infect other people through the blood they inoculate. When the parasite enters the human body, it reaches the liver and multiplies, invades the red blood cells and eventually destroys them, allowing the parasites to spread throughout the body and trigger the manifestations of malaria. Malaria is a parasitic endemic that is only found in tropical, equatorial and temperate but warm areas: in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Central and South America and the Middle East.

How do you know if you have contracted malaria?

There are four species of plasmodiums whose consequences on the human body can vary considerably. In general, the first symptoms of malaria occur between 8 and 20 days after being infected. It always starts with a high fever, which at first is not regular or persistent. The patient has chills, feels very hot and sweats profusely, and then the high fever subsides. The fever is accompanied by digestive problems such as nausea and diarrhoea. These symptoms are accompanied by pain in the muscles and abdomen, as well as headaches. If left untreated at this stage, the disease leads to more serious symptoms such as fainting, general fatigue, delirium and convulsions or anaemia resulting from the destruction of red blood cells. Delayed management of the disease can lead to death.

Prevention and treatment

Protection from mosquito bites is the most effective prevention. In areas where there is a high prevalence of malaria, it is advisable to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets. Anopheles mosquitoes only bite at night. Preventive medication prescribed by a doctor should also be given to travellers planning to stay in countries at risk. The disease is diagnosed by a laboratory analysis of blood for the presence of plasmodium. As for treatment, there is no self-medication against malaria, the best solution is to consult a doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear.

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