Each year, World Malaria Day is observed by the World Health Organisation to spread awareness about the illness. This year, the theme is ‘Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives’. “This year’s World Malaria Day will draw attention to the critical role innovation plays in helping to achieve global elimination goals,” reads WHO’s official website.
What is Malaria?
“Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by four kinds of malaria parasites — Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite,” said Dr. Aravinda GM, consultant, Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospital, Jayanagar.
Dr GM pointed out that the first symptoms include fever, headache, and chills which may be mild, making it difficult to recognise as malaria. “If not treated within 24 hours, Plasmodium falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, and lead to death. Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms like severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ failure is also frequent.”
Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe diseases, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations, and travellers.
Malaria can be treated. If the right drugs are used, people who have malaria can be cured and all the malaria parasites can be cleared from their bodies. However, said Dr GM, “the disease can continue if it is not treated or if it is treated with the wrong drug. Some drugs are not effective because the parasite is resistant to them. Some people with malaria may be treated with the right drug, but at the wrong dose or for too short a period of time. Proper nutritional supplements help in boosting immunity and fighting diseases.”
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