Malaria is an infection of the blood that has been around for thousands of years and is carried from person to person through mosquitoes. Previously wide spread, it is now mainly confined to Africa, Asia and Latin America. Problems of controlling malaria in afflicted countries are aggravated by inadequate health structure and poor socio-economic conditions of countries where this disease is prevalent. According to WHO (World Health Organization) between 350- 500 million cases of malaria occur world wide each year and approximately 1 million people die, the majority of whom are young children and pregnant women..
Dr. Rehana Abbass is a graduate of Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore, and is presently working as a medical officer at Packages Limited. She has been working extensively with patients suffering from malaria for several years. The following is an account of the discussion that took place with Dr. Abbass:
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria include headache, fever and vomiting, and usually appear between 10-15 days after the mosquito bite. If left untreated, malaria can quickly become life threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.
How is malaria diagnosed?
Ans: Simple blood tests taken at regular intervals confirm the diagnosis for malaria. The doctor may at times do a daily blood smear to keep track of the infection; if there are no complications, the fever will clear in three to four days, and most parasites will disappear from the blood.
What treatment is available for malaria?
Ans: Malaria can be cured with prescription drugs; the type of drugs and length of treatment administered depend on what kind of malaria is diagnosed. Mild malaria can be treated with oral medication, although the drug treatment of malaria is not always easy. Chloroquine phosphate is the drug of choice for all malaria parasites; however, quinine sulphate tablets are used effectively in Pakistan to treat malaria.
How can malaria be prevented?
Ans: Medicines to prevent malaria are most effective if you take the recommended dosage exactly as prescribed by the doctor for a specific duration. Some of the preventive measures against malaria that can be adopted are:
Limit out door activity between dusk and dawn Stay in screened rooms Wear protective clothing, like full sleeve shirts and socks while out side Use insect repellant lotions Use bed nets if sleeping outdoors Use indoor mosquito mats/repellents
Great emphasis should be laid on educating people about malaria, its control, and how the general public can contribute towards the prevention of malaria by keeping their surroundings clean, and ensuring that stagnant pools of water are not present as dirty water is an ideal breeding location for mosquitoes. By adopting such measures, malaria and other similar diseases can be controlled to a large extent.*
* The same preventive measures can be adopted for another deadly mosquito-borne infection, i.e. dengue fever.