Malaria could be deadly if not diagnosed and treated early

By Lucy Ankrah

Malaria is a common disease found in West Africa and south Asia. It is a disease which if not diagnosed and treated early may be serious and sometimes fatal.
Malaria is caused by plasmodium parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. It is very important that travelers who go to these countries take precautions to prevent the serious attack from the disease. It is transmitted by mosquitoes who introduce the parasites from their saliva into a person’s blood stream. The parasites then travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce.
The disease is diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood film, however, predicted diagnosis could be done by thorough history and physical examination by a health care professional.
The disease is transmitted by being bitten by the female mosquito and symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. If not treated well the disease may recur months later.
About 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are found in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. (CDC, 2010)
Malaria is commonly associated with poverty and has a major negative effect on economic development. In Africa it is estimated that the effect of malaria on health care cost, time away from work and effect on tourism is $12 billion US dollars a year. According to the World Health Organization, there were 198 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2013, which resulted in an estimated 584,000 to 855,000 deaths, the majority (90%) of which occurred in Africa.

Signs and Symptoms
Malaria signs and symptoms begin 8 to 25 days following infection. Some symptoms may occur later in those who had taken prophylactic medications before exposure. The initial manifestation is similar to flu-like symptoms and so difficult to differentiate in non endemic areas. It has a cyclical occurrence of sudden coldness followed by shivering and then fever and sweating, occurring every two days

Other symptoms of Malaria
include:
1. Fever
2. Fatigue and joint pains
3. Headaches
4. Nausea and vomiting
5.Dark urine which is a representation of hemoglobin in urine
6.Retinal damage
7. In severe cases it can cause jaundiced skin. Seizures, coma and death.
8.If not treated on time might cause neurological symptoms such as convulsions and coma
9.Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented
Complications: They include respiratory distress, pulmonary edema, Pneumonia, severe anemia, spleen enlargement, enlarged liver, kidney failure bleeding problems. In pregnant women it may cause stillbirths, infant mortality, abortion and low birth weight.
Diagnosis:
Malaria has non-specific nature of presentation of symptoms especially in the United States where the disease is not common. Presentation of symptoms, diagnosis of malaria in non-endemic areas requires a high degree of suspicion such as:
1.recent travel history
2.enlarged spleen
3.fever
4.low platelets in the blood
5.high blood bilirubin
6.elevated white blood cells
7.For areas where blood test is expensive it has become common to use only a history of fever as the indication to treat for malaria.
Prevention and Treatment
The risk of disease can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites by using mosquito nets and insect repellents, or with mosquito-control measures such as spraying insecticides and draining standing water. Several medications are available to prevent malaria in travelers to areas with the disease.
It is recommended that you talk to your health care provider before taking malaria medications since resistance has been developed to several anti malaria drugs. It is also very important to deal with health care providers with more experience in tropical medicine for quick diagnosis of the disease.

Ms. Ankrah, MA, MSN, ANP-BC
is a nurse practitioner in the State of New Jersey

References:
1.Factsheet on the World Malaria report 2014; World Health Organization. 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2015
2.Hartman TK, Rogerson SJ, Fischer PR (2010). “The impact of maternal malaria on newborns”. Annals of Tropical Pediatrics 30 (4): 271–82
3. “Malaria”. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention April 15, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2015

 

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Posted by on Apr 18 2015. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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