What is malaria?
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted person-to-person by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes are present in the tropics and subtropics in almost all countries.
Malaria is the most deadly of all tropical parasitic diseases. After the parasites enter the body by a mosquito bite, they disappear from the circulating blood within an hour and gather in the liver. After several days, infected red blood cells (RBCs) emerge from the liver and infect other RBCs.
What are the different types of malaria parasites?
Four species of Plasmodium (single-celled parasites) can infect humans and cause illness:
- Plasmodium falciparum (or P. falciparum)
- Plasmodium malariae (or P. malariae)
- Plasmodium vivax (or P. vivax)
- Plasmodium ovale (or P. ovale)
Generally, only falciparum malaria is potentially life-threatening. Patients with severe falciparum malaria may develop liver and kidney failure, convulsions, and coma. Infections with P. vivax and P. ovale may cause less serious illness, but the parasites can remain dormant in the liver for many months, causing a reappearance of symptoms months or even years later.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Early stages of malaria may be similar to the flu. The following are the most common symptoms of malaria. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- muscle ache
- sometimes vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing
Symptoms of malaria usually appear ten to 16 days after the infectious mosquito bite and may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.