Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through
the bites of infected mosquitoes. It is more serious in young children and pregnant women. Fortunately, it is preventable and curable.
Let us see how!
Is Malaria common?
Sadly, it is!
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2017, the estimated 219 millioncases of malaria in 87 countries causing 4,35,000 deaths. It is said that every 2 minutes a child dies because of malaria somewhere in the world.
India also sees around 1 million infections per year, though it is suspected to be grossly underreported. In view of such a high burden, WHO has declared a Global Technical Strategy to eliminate malaria in most affected countries by 2030.
April 25 is observed as World Malaria Day to bring the focus of all stakeholders towards efforts to decrease the disease burden. The theme for 2019 is “Zero Tolerance stats with Me”
How does malaria spread?
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites which are spread by the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquito. The two common types of Plasmodium in India are P. vivax and P. falciparum. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes usually bite at night, unlike the mosquitoes that carry dengue and chikungunya that bite during the day. Malaria also gets transmitted through blood transfusion of infected blood. If a pregnant woman gets infected with malaria, it can get transmitted to unborn baby.
Groups at high risk for serious disease
- Infants, children under 5 years.
- Pregnant women.
- Travelers from developed countries with a low incidence of malaria.
Symptoms of Malaria in Children
- Disease symptoms usually appear between 1-3 weeks after the mosquito bite.
- Fever with headache and body aches
- Shivering and chills
- Poor appetite, irritability, Stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting
- Drowsiness and seizures
Few types of parasites can stay in the liver and cause recurrence of the disease for many years even after treatment.
Small children may not have typical fever pattern of intermittent fever with chills. Instead, they can have a continuous fever of varying intensity. It may be accompanied by cough and cold just like any viral infection, hence high index of suspicion is required in endemic areas. In congenital malaria, newborn babies can develop anemia and jaundice along with fever, irritability, and refusal to feed.
What should you do if your child has a fever?
Any fever can be malaria, so keep it at the back of the mind. Consult your doctor if fever is not subsiding in 2-3 days, or earlier in malaria season. Blood Test will be required to confirm Malaria.
Take care of the following points at home:-
- Paracetamol and sponging to bring down a fever.
- Plenty of fluids and adequate rest.
- Observe for alerts indicating complications
- – excessive laziness, vomiting, looking sick, drowsiness, etc.
- If diagnosed to have malaria-give medication as per your doctor’s instruction.
Prevention of Malaria
- Avoiding mosquito bite especially during night time.
- Taking antimalarial drugs to kill the parasites
- Sleeping under bed nets
- Spraying insecticides in your premises, Using insect repellent. Roll-on
- preparations are preferable to sprays. For 0 to 2-month-old babies, apply on prams, cots or strollers. For older babies than 2 months, apply on clothes. Do not use on cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Do not apply to areas around the eyes or mouth, Do not apply to the hands or fingers of young children.
- Eliminate places around your home where mosquitoes breed.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, so light-colored clothes should be worn with long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks to prevent bites.
- Still, water attracts mosquitoes, so keep away from dams, ponds and other sources of stagnant water.
- Cover any containers that store water (including swimming pools). Empty or drain containers when they are not being used.
- Fill large holes in trees with sand or mortar.
- Do not over-water the garden.