The risk of malaria
Malaria is still a health risk for anyone travelling to exotic climes and occurs in over 100 countries throughout the world. For this reason alone it is considered to be the world’s most important tropical disease and if you are travelling to Africa, Asia or South America it is well worth getting advice from your doctor prior to travelling to ensure you take appropriate precautions.
Malaria is caught from a bite by a malaria-infected mosquito. Only the females bite, as they need blood to help them develop their eggs. The disease is transmitted by the anopheles mosquito and is caused by minute parasitic protozoa of the genus plasmodium. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it ingests these parasites that are present in the infected person’s blood. The plasmodium parasites develop in the mosquito and are passed on in the saliva of the insect to whomever it bites. The infected blood then travels to the liver where they invade the cells. After roughly two weeks, they return to the blood, penetrating and breaking down the red cells. This induces bouts of fever and anaemia in the infected person. Malaria can also damage other vital organs including the brain, so it should be taken seriously.
Is there a cure?
Malaria is generally a curable disease as long as it is promptly diagnosed and treated. Effective anti-malarial medicines, such as chloroquine, doxycycline and mefloquine, can prevent the symptoms of acute malaria from developing by suppressing the infection in the blood stream. These are certainly effective in the most common form of malaria, the plasmodium falciparum strain, which does not have relapses of infection, unlike some less common strains of the parasite.