This article contains general advice only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Always seek a professional health care opinion.
The persistent buzz of a mosquito in the home is infuriating. Even more infuriating is the itchy bite it leaves you if it manages to escape your clutches. In some parts of the world, mosquito bites can be more harmful than a nuisance. Some mosquitos are vectors for debilitating diseases and mosquito bites can be deadly. Malaria is one of these diseases.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a serious disease spread by mosquitos and not contagious between humans. It takes one bite to become infected and if untreated, it can be fatal.
Where does malaria occur?
With over 1 million deaths reported every year, malaria is widespread. Found in over 100 countries, it is most prevalent in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Typically, malaria symptoms develop fast, beginning to surface between 10 to 15 days after a mosquito bites. Rarely, the symptoms can take up to a year to show.
- a high temperature (at least 38°C)
- nausea and vomiting
- fever, sweats and chills
- muscle aches and pains
If untreated, more serious complications can develop, including jaundice, kidney failure, coma and in worst cases, death.
What causes malaria?
Malaria is caused by a parasite called a Plasmodium that infects female anopheles mosquitos. They harbour the parasite before injecting and infecting the human through their bites. After entering the body, the parasite flows through the blood stream before entering the liver and multiplying.
Tip: you can identify a female anopheles mosquito if its thorax is raised from its resting surface!
How do you prevent malaria?
Mosquito bites are hard to avoid in infested areas, but not impossible if you follow these simple tips.
- Prepare your environment
Malaria-carrying mosquitos are mainly active during twilight periods. Use an effective insect repellent to help keep them at bay when dusk or dawn breaks
- Dress to prevent
Wear loose, light-coloured clothing that covers your arms and legs and don’t wear perfumes or aftershaves that could attract unwanted attention. Cover any exposed skin with body insect repellent.
- Anti-malaria medication
There are no malaria vaccines to prevent infection. However, ask your doctor about anti-malarial medication tablets a few months before you travel to high-risk areas. If prescribed, you must complete the whole course for the medication to be fully effective.
How do you treat malaria?
Whilst serious, almost all malaria sufferers make a full recovery provided that the infection is treated promptly. If you develop malaria symptoms, consult your doctor or your nearest medical centre immediately.