Malaria is an infectious disease that, despite being preventable and treatable, threatens the lives of 3.3 billion people around the world. Every year malaria accounts for 243 million cases and 863,000 deaths, 89 percent of which are in Sub-saharan Africa where a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria. High maternal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anaemia are also consequences of this devastating disease. (WHO World Malaria Report 2009)
The malarial parasite is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and other non specific flu-like symptoms. If suitable drugs are not administered quickly or there is parasite resistance to treatment, the infection can result in life-threatening anaemia, coma and death.
Besides its shattering impact on families and communities, malaria also influences economies and societies; reducing productivity and hindering young people’s education. Africa’s economies alone lose $12.5 billion per year , and economists estimate that malaria is responsible for reducing economic growth in endemic countries by as much as 1.3 percent. This widespread disease is both a cause and a result of poverty, making it imperative that it should be controlled so that affected economies can develop and grow.
Malaria can be easily prevented, diagnosed and treated. However, it is,, estimated that $5-6.2 billion is required each year if the global target of reducing 75 percent of malaria cases by 2015 is to be reached. Annual global financial commitments to malaria control currently total $1.7 billion. (WHO World Malaria Report 2009)
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, which usually feeds between sunset and sunrise. The Anopheles itself becomes infected by taking in parasites after feeding on infected human blood. The parasites then develop inside the mosquito and about a week later can be transferred to a new host when the mosquito feeds again.
Plasmodium is the malaria parasite that infects human cells. There are five species of the human Plasmodium parasite: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae and P. knowlesi. P. falciparum is the strain that causes the most severe, life threatening malaria cases. The parasite, once injected into the human host, resides in the liver for between two weeks and several months before multiplying within the red blood cells and causing the first symptoms of malaria.
For an animated illustration of the malaria life cycle and how the mosquito, parasite and human body contribute to its spread, click here.
Uncomplicated malaria is the most common and widespread presentation of the disease. While it is not immediately life-threatening, it requires prompt treatment as if the P. falciparum parasite is present, it can develop into severe malaria.
The classic symptoms of malaria consist of bouts of fever that coincide with parasites bursting out of red blood cells, chills, sweats, headaches, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.
Severe malaria occurs when infections, most commonly P.falciparum, are complicated by serious organ failures or abnormalities in the patient’s blood or metabolism.Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to severe malaria .
Symptoms vary by geographical distribution and age. In Africa, particularly in children, symptoms include severe anaemia, fever and convulsions, problems with breathing, cerebral malaria, extreme weakness, hypoglycaemia, circulatory collapse, oedema, septicaemia, and occasionally kidney failure and coma. Even of those who have made it to hospital, around one fifth of patients die of severe malaria.
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malaria control by increasing both supply and
demand for malaria control tools in Uganda
to appropriate treatment for childhood
illnesses at community level