MALARIA MOSQUITO AFFLICTIONS
This Mosquito Afflictions series breaks down some of the most common dangerous diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitos.
** PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor and/or medical treatment if necessary**
Malaria is the most common mosquito-borne disease.
The Plasmodium parasites of Malaria use two hosts, namely mosquitoes and humans.
Mosquitos use a sharp needle-like appendage to bite and inject their saliva into the wound created. This saliva creates a numbing sensation and releases an anticoagulant so that the blood being sucked does not clot. A mosquito’s saliva that is infected with Malaria contains the parasites that move to the victim’s liver once after they’re bitten. Once in the liver, the merozoites (the “daughter parasite”) are released. These eventually mature into adult gametocytes that can then be transferred into any other mosquitos that bite the new host, completing the cycle of transmission.
The outbreaks of Malaria can also be influenced by environmental factors. If the temperatures and humidity levels are high the development of the Malaria Parasite is accelerated and is also beneficial to the Anopheles, which has to remain alive and feeding long enough for the sporozoites to fully form and leave the mosquito, which can take approximately 18 days.
Transmission can also be congenital (mother to child during pregnancy) or transfusion related (where an infected persons blood is utilized in a blood transplant for a patient).
Before any symptoms appear, an infected victim will go through an incubation period that can last between 7 – 30 days depending on the specific species of Plasmodium parasite that they’re contaminated with.
Classically, malaria presents in three stages:
- A cold/shivering stage,
- A hot/fever stage,
- A sweating stage.
Overall, a combination of the following symptoms may occur:
- Body Aches
- Seizures (in young children with elevated temperatures)
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
Malaria is often misdiagnosed due to the similarity of many of the symptoms with the common flu.
Other physical findings that can indicate malaria include:
- An Enlarged Spleen
- Mild Jaundice
- An Enlarged Liver
- Increased Respiratory Rates
In some cases, malaria can become very severe and can even be fatal. In this case, it is considered a medical emergency and needs to be treated both aggressively and quickly to avoid permanent damage and/or death.
Symptoms of a serious case include:
- Severe Anemia
- Neurologic Abnormalities (ie. abnormal behavior, periods of loss of consciousness, seizures, or even coma)
- Hemoglobin in Urine
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- Cardiovascular Collapse
- Severely Low Blood Pressure
- Acute Kidney Failure
- Metabolic Acidosis (tissues and blood are oversaturated with acidity)
- Hypoglycemia (common in pregnant women with malaria)
- Hyperparasitemia (the parasite has multiplied to the point where it is infecting over 5% of the body’s red blood cells)
A blood test will be required to receive an official diagnosis of the disease. Once it is confirmed as the cause, those infected can be properly treated.
Malaria can be prevented with antimalarial drugs and other mosquito-based precautions.
Unlike some mosquito-transmitted diseases, malaria can be prevented, treated, and cured.
No matter what treatment method is used, care should be initiated urgently because the longer malaria is left to fester, the more serious the condition of the patient may become and possibly lead to death.
With proper treatment, malaria can be cured over the span of roughly two weeks. In some more rare cases where malaria is both minor and left untreated, the cold, hot, and sweating episodes can periodically occur over the years.
After being exposed to malaria, those cured are partially immune and, if re-infected, will experience milder cases than before. Thankfully, the creation of a vaccine is in the works and, once proven effective, will be a game changer in the prevention of the disease worldwide.
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