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Malaria


Table of Contents

  1. What is malaria ?
  2. How many types of malaria are there ?
  3. How to recognise the condition ?
  4. What to do if such fever occurs ?
  5. What are the notable danger signals ?
  6. How can one prevent it ?

What is malaria ?

The word malaria is derived from the two words - mal and air - or bad air since the condition was previously thought to be caused by presence of bad air or unhygienic conditions.
The situation was changed when Sir Ronald Ross made his famous discovery at the School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta, India that malaria was caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito that is carrying the parasite of the species Plasmodium.

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How many types of malaria are there ?

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How to recognise the condition ?

Though the blood tests confirming the presence of malarial parasites are the best method, periodic bouts of high fever, particularly in those areas where the occurrence of malaria is common, which begins with a feeling of tremendous chill and shivering - not even several blankets and woollen clothes helps - all of which lasts for a period from 15 minutes to an hour accompanied by headache, nausea and vomiting. The chills go away, but the fever remains, sometimes upto several hours, often reaching 104 F or higher at times. Then comes the sweating when even the underclothings may get soaking wet and the fever subsides.
The whole episode makes the patient feel quite exhausted causing the patient to fall asleep and waking up feeling relatively well. However, the pattern is repeated every 48 (in the tertiary variety) to 72 (in the quaternary variety) hours, depending upon the parasite causing the fever in the first place.

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What to do if such fever occurs ?

Visit your doctor without any delay and get your blood tested for the presence of malarial parasites (MP). The blood must be obtained by pricking your finger-tip when the fever is at its highest level. Blood samples taken when there is either no fever present or chills and shivering are occurring for the offending parasites are not visible in the blood at such times. The parasites are found to reside in the red blood cells.

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What are the notable danger signals ?

High fever with chills and shivering accompanied by:

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How can one prevent it ?

All exposed parts of the body are vulnerable at all times (in contrast with dengue). So use mosquito screens and repellents at all times and keep as much as body parts covered as is practical.
Unfortunately, no true preventive medications are available which carry 100 per cent guarantee of effectivity. Even those who are taking such medications for preventive purposes may still catch the disease. The best measures are as have been detailed above.

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Compiled from various sources by Dr. S. B. Bhattacharyya.
Copyright [SUDISA]. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 09, 1999.