World Malaria Day is celebrated on 25 April every year across the world to spread awareness about Malaria fever.
India still has one of the highest caseloads of Malaria in the world, although in the last couple of years the country has seen a drop in cases, according to the World Health Organization's World Malaria Report 2021.
You may know that Malaria is a parasitic infection carried by certain mosquitoes. But did you know that there are not one, but 5 types of Malaria?
FIT speaks to experts about the different types, how to spot them, and ways to avoid Malaria.
What is Malaria?
Malaria fever is a type of infectious disease. It spreads through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito, which carries a protozoan called Plasmodium vivax.
Malaria disease is more common in summers and in the monsoon.
Malaria mosquito breeds in stagnant and dirty water, while dengue mosquito breeds in fresh water.
“Malaria can happen to anyone and can happen more than once. In places where there is waterlogging, there is a possibility of malaria outbreaks. Hot and humid environments, especially, help malaria mosquitoes flourish," says Dr Devnath Jha, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Batra Hospital, Delhi.
Here's how a person is infected:
As soon as the female Anopheles mosquito bites, a parasite called Plasmodium enters the person's body and starts multiplying as soon as it reaches the patient's body.
This parasite makes the person sick by infecting the liver and blood cells. This disease can also be fatal if not treated at the right time.
“Malaria should not be seen as just a fever. If it is not treated at the right time, then it can prove to be fatal."Dr Ankita Baidya, Consultant, Infectious Disease, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka
Symptoms of Malaria
“Malaria is accompanied by high fever with chills. A pattern is seen in this type of fever. Fever usually starts showing up within 24 to 48 hours. This is because the malaria-causing parasite are released from time to time in the blood from the patient's liver, infecting the cells of the blood, making a kind of toxin from there. Due to which, fever comes with shivering," explains Dr Ankita Baidya of HCMCT Manipal Hospital.
Here are the symptoms told by the doctor:
“It takes time for all the symptoms of the disease to appear. It is difficult to diagnose the disease without a test because often the initial symptoms of many diseases are similar. In malaria, platelets fall, but with the right treatment, there is an improvement soon, but this does not happen in dengue," Dr Devnath Jha, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Batra Hospital, Delhi.
Types of Malaria
There are basically 5 types of Malaria, caused by different parasites:
Plasmodium falciparum (P. Falciparum)
This parasite bites mostly during the day, and symptoms start showing up after around 48 hours.
The person suffering from this disease has headache, back pain, pain in hands and feet, loss of appetite, along with high fever.
If a person is infected with P. Falciparum, they tend to lose consciousness. The patient may feel very cold, and also have a headache, and profuse vomiting. It can be fatal if left untreated.
Jaundice or liver problems, kidney problems, anaemia can occur due to complicated malaria.
Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the most common type, and these patients account for the highest number of malaria deaths worldwide.
“Malaria also causes changes in the blood, due to which the platelets of the patient start falling. Sometimes brain malaria also occurs, which is a very dangerous form of malaria," says Dr Ankita Baidya, Consultant, Infectious Disease, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka.
Plasmodium ovale malaria (P. ovale)
Plasmodium ovale malaria causes benign tertian malaria and is uncommon. It can stay in a person's liver for years before symptoms start showing up.
Plasmodium malariae (P. malariae)
Plasmodium malariae is a type of protozoan that is responsible for another type of benign malaria. This type of malaria is not as dangerous as Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax.
Quarton malaria occurs in this disease, in which the patient gets fever every fourth day.
Along with this, protein starts coming out of the patient's urine. Due to which, there is a lack of protein in the patient's body, causing inflammation and swelling.
Plasmodium knowlesi ( P. knowlesi)
This type of malaria is a primate malaria parasite found in East Asia. In this, the patient has fever along with chills. Symptoms include fever, headache, loss of appetite along with chills.
Medicines used against malaria should be used very carefully and only under a doctor's supervision.
Prevention of Malaria
Dr Ankita Baidya tells FIT, “protect your family from mosquito bites. If a mosquito that has bitten an infected patient bites a healthy person, then the chances of getting malaria increases."
The best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is to use mosquito nets or mosquito repellents.
Also keep in mind,
Do not allow water to accumulate in the house or outside your house
Wear full-body covering clothes to avoid mosquito bites when going outside the house. Especially when kids go out to play
Sleep under a mosquito net if possible
Install mosquito repellants in the doors and windows of the house
Apply mosquito repellent on the exposed part of the body
Keep spraying insecticides around the house from time to time
Contact the doctor as soon as you notice malaria like symptoms
Children and the elderly are more likely to develop complex and severe malaria, and the risk of fatality is higher in these age groups. Therefore, make sure to especially protect them from mosquito bites.
Both the experts we spoke to said that campaigns against malaria are ongoing in the country.
In order to prevent the problem of malaria, the government is running the NMCP (National Malaria Control Programme), which includes vector control, i.e the breeding of mosquitoes, and the monitoring and supervision of malaria hotspots.
The people of the society also have to take the responsibility to maintain cleanliness and prevent mosquito breeding around them.