Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito-borne blood disease affecting humans and other animals caused by a Plasmodium parasite. The disease is widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions that exist in a broad band around the equator. Malaria can be controlled with early diagnosis and uncomplicated malaria can be treated with oral medication. Drug resistance poses a growing problem in 21st-century malaria treatment. Malaria kills roughly half a million people each year and infects hundreds of millions. The largest percentage of cases and deaths occur in Africa.
Here are 8 facts about one of the most deadly diseases in the world
- Without proper treatment, malaria can kill within 24 hours of symptoms onset. Symptoms include a headache, fever, joint pains, vomiting, retinal damage, shivering, and convulsions. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms.
- Malaria infects an average of 200 million people each year. Out of these, up to a million will die every year. Approximately 90 percent of cases and deaths occur in Africa. In Africa, it is estimated that malaria results in annual losses to the tune of US$ 12 billion due to increased healthcare costs, negative effects on tourism, and lost ability to work.
- Only female mosquitoes transmit malaria. Malaria is most commonly transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Male mosquitoes are timid and feed on nectar and honeydew of plants to get sugar. Female mosquitoes need protein to produce eggs, which they get from the blood of animals including humans.
- Immunity developed over years of exposure can prevent malaria. Years of exposure to malaria boosts ones immunity to the disease thus preventing it from infecting them. Most malaria deaths occur in children and pregnant women. Malaria is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5. This age group represents two-thirds of all malaria deaths.
- Prevention is the best cure for malaria. Prevention of malaria may be more cost-effective than treatment in the long run. Methods used to prevent malaria include mosquito elimination, prevention of bites and medication. There is no vaccine for malaria. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets placed around beds is a sure way of preventing mosquito bites. Indoor residual insecticide spraying has shown to be highly effective in preventing malaria among children.
- Half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately huge share of the global malaria burden. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in an estimated 730,000 deaths. Malaria is commonly associated with poverty and has a negative effect on economic development.
- Thousands die every year from taking fake anti-malaria drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that studies indicate that up to 40% of artesunate-based malaria medications are counterfeit, accounting for an estimated 20% of deaths caused by malaria. Sophisticated counterfeits have been found in several Asian countries and are causing avoidable deaths in those countries.
- Pregnant women are extremely vulnerable to malaria. Pregnancy leads to changes in a woman’s hormone levels and reduces her immunity making her more susceptible to malaria infection. First-time mothers are especially vulnerable.
Several malaria vaccines are in clinical trials. These vaccines are intended to provide protection for children in endemic areas and to reduce the speed of transmission of the disease. Malaria is a preventable and curable illness and proper education on malaria and access to medication will go a long way in supporting efforts to eradicate it worldwide.