World Malaria Day: Things to Know about the Disease


You always have to be on your guard to stay protected from diseases. Yes, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and quitting smoking can protect you from many diseases, but not all. Diseases such as Malaria are not hereditary and uncertain. They are transmitted through mosquito bites.

As we commemorate World Malaria Day, it’s crucial to shed light on one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history. Malaria, caused by the Plasmodium parasite transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, continues to pose a significant global health challenge in many countries, including  India. Despite remarkable progress in combating malaria, much remains to be done to achieve its eradication. Here are nine essential insights to deepen our understanding of this relentless foe on World Malaria Day.

Global impact:

Malaria knows no borders, affecting millions worldwide, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019, with approximately 409,000 deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa bears the highest burden, with children under five and pregnant women facing the greatest risk.

Vector transmission:

Female Anopheles mosquitoes are the primary vectors responsible for transmitting malaria parasites. These mosquitoes thrive in warm and humid climates, making regions like sub-Saharan Africa particularly vulnerable. Understanding the behaviour and ecology of these vectors is crucial in designing effective control strategies.

Types of malaria:

Not all malaria cases are the same. There are several species of the Plasmodium parasite that can infect humans, with Plasmodium falciparum being the most deadly. Other species include Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malaria, and Plasmodium ovale. Each species presents unique challenges in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Symptoms and diagnosis:

Malaria symptoms typically include fever, chills, sweats, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. However, these symptoms can be nonspecific and easily mistaken for other febrile illnesses. Diagnosis often relies on microscopic examination of blood smears or rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) to detect the presence of malaria parasites.

Antimalarial treatment:

Prompt and effective treatment is essential in managing malaria and preventing severe complications. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are currently the most effective treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria, while other antimalarial drugs are used for treating other species and severe malaria cases.

Malaria can be transmitted:

Malaria can be transmitted from human to human. However, you cannot “catch” malaria the way you catch a cold, it can be transmitted by sharing needles, blood transfusions or pregnancy.

Drug resistance:

The emergence and spread of drug-resistant malaria parasites, particularly to artemisinin, pose a significant threat to malaria control efforts. Continued vigilance and research are necessary to monitor and combat drug resistance, ensuring that effective antimalarial drugs remain available and accessible.

Vector control strategies:

Alongside treatment, vector control is a cornerstone of malaria prevention. Strategies such as Insecticide-treated Nets (ITNs), Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), and larval control aim to reduce mosquito populations and prevent human-vector contact. Sustainable and integrated approaches are essential for long-term success.

You cannot be immune to malaria

Malaria doesn’t provide natural immunity, even for those living in affected areas. This means anyone, regardless of previous exposure, can get infected repeatedly. That’s why it’s crucial to keep up prevention efforts like using bed nets and spraying indoors. Quick diagnosis and treatment are also key.

Closing thoughts

On World Malaria Day, let us renew our commitment to defeating this ancient scourge once and for all. By raising awareness, investing in research and innovation, strengthening health systems, and fostering global collaboration, we can overcome the challenges posed by malaria and create a healthier, malaria-free world for generations to come. As individuals, we each have a role to play in this collective effort, whether it’s supporting malaria programs, advocating for increased funding, or simply spreading knowledge and awareness. Together, we can turn the tide against malaria and build a brighter, healthier future for all.

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