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What is Malaria by Sydney Gibson

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Malaria is caused by a bite from a mosquito infected with parasites. After being bit, the parasites travel to the liver where they can be dormant up to a year. After parasites mature, they leave the liver and travel to the blood stream where they infect the red blood cells. This is when malaria symptoms surface. In rare cases, someone can contract malaria from coming in contact with infected blood or sharing used needles. Also a fetus may get the disease from its mother. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get malaria by being near someone with the disease. Malaria is rare in the United States, but very prominent in places such as Africa, Southern Asia, Central America, and South America. Malaria kills an estimated one million people across the globe annually.

Normally symptoms of malaria surface a few weeks after being bitten. However, some types of malaria parasites can be in your body for months and even years. Malaria symptoms include: high fever, chills, profuse sweating, diarrhea, headache, vomiting and muscle pain. Symptoms are much like the flu. Symptoms can come and go, and some are more serious than others. Symptoms that can cause serious problems are damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or brain. These can be fatal.

If a high fever is encountered while being in an area while malaria is common, medical attention should be sought out. To diagnose malaria, doctors use thick and thin blood smears to see if malaria is in the blood. If the blood smear does not show malaria, but your doctor still suspects it, a blood smear should be repeated every 8-12 hours for the next 36 hours. There is also a rapid blood test available that can diagnose malaria. Other tests that doctors might use to diagnose malaria are: liver function test to check for liver damage, complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia or other infections, and a blood glucose test to test for the amount of sugar in the blood. If symptoms surface it is important to get blood tests because they can show whether or not you have malaria, which type of malaria it is, if the infection is caused by a parasite resistant to drugs, and whether or not organs have been affected.

Health professionals worldwide are trying to make malaria less common by providing bed nets to people that live in areas where malaria is prominent. The bed nets are used when people sleep and are unaware of their surroundings. Scientists are also trying to develop a vaccine to prevent the disease. If you are traveling to an area where malaria is common there are precautions that should be taken to ensure the disease is not contracted. Many malaria parasites are immune to preventative medicines, but the best way to prevent malaria is to take preventative medications before, during, and after the trip. Infants and children, travelers coming with no previous exposure to malaria, and pregnant mothers of unborn children are at higher risk of contracting malaria.

The Centers for Disease Control estimated that 90% of all malaria deaths happen in Africa, most often in children under the age of 5. Normally, malaria deaths are related to: cerebral malaria (parasite-filled blood cells block blood vessels to the brain, swelling of the brain can occur or coma), breathing problems (accumulated fluid in the lungs), organ failure (kidneys and liver can fail along with spleen rupture), severe anemia, and low blood sugar (can result in coma or death).

When scheduling an appointment with a doctor, there are things one can do to prepare beforehand. Common things to be aware of are medications you are currently taking, when you have last traveled out of the country and where, have you ever had malaria before, and what are the symptoms and when did they begin.



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