What is Malaria?

Malaria2Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite, Plasmodium, which infects red blood cells. Malaria is characterized by cycles of cold, fever, pain, and sweating which in severe cases can progress to coma or death. There are two common species that cause malaria in Cambodia, the most serious type is Plasmodium falciparum malaria and it can be life-threatening. And it account for more than 70% of all malaria in Cambodia.

The other type is Plasmodium vivax and generally less serious but can reoccurs in six to 12 months after the initial outbreak. Furthermore, it repeat itself indefinitely.

Also, it is possible to be infected with more than one species of Plasmodium at the same time.


How Malaria is spread?

malaria cycleThe life cycle of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium) is complicated and involves two hosts, humans and Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is transmitted to humans when an infected female Anopheles mosquito bites a person and injects the malaria parasites (sporozoites) into the blood. Sporozoites travel through the bloodstream to the liver, mature, and eventually infect the human red blood cells. While in red blood cells, the parasites again develop until a mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected human and ingests human red blood cells containing the parasites. Then the parasites reach the Anopheles mosquito’s stomach and eventually invade the mosquito salivary glands. When an Anopheles mosquito bites a human, these sporozoites complete and repeat the complex Plasmodium life cycle.


What are the symptoms of Malaria?

Efforts-along-the-Thai-Cambodia-border-are-proving-effective-in-eliminating-drug-resistant-strains-of-malariaThe period between the mosquito bite and the onset of the malarial illness is usually 1-3 weeks (7 to 21 days). This initial time period is highly variable as reports suggest that the range of incubation periods may range from four days to one year.

The characteristic symptoms of Malaria include flulike illness with fever, chills, muscle aches, and headache. Some patients develop nausea, vomiting, cough, and diarrhea. Cycles of cold, fever, and sweating that repeat every one, two, or three days are typical. There can sometimes be vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and yellowing (jaundice) of the skin and whites of the eyes due to destruction of red blood cells and liver cells.

People with severe P. falciparum malaria can develop bleeding problems, shock, liver or kidney failure, central nervous system problems, coma, and can die from the infection or its complications. Cerebral malaria (coma, or altered mental status or seizures) can occur with severe P. falciparum infection. It is lethal if not treated quickly; even with treatment, about 15%-20% die.


How to prevent Malaria?

bugnetAt present there is no vaccine for malaria. Therefore, the best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites by
• wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants;
• sleeping in air-conditioned room or equipped with mosquito nets;
• using mosquito sprays or sleeping under bed nets;

• using insect repellent to exposed skin (preferably containing DEET, if use by children then the concentration should not exceed twenty per cent);

Travelers are at risk for malaria should take DOXYCYCLINE. If DOXYCYCLINE is used, there is no need to take other preventive drugs, such as chloroquine. Some malaria in Cambodia is resistant to many drugs, which include mefloquine. Regular intake of Doxycyline or possibly Malarone  for people who spend substantial periods of time in high risk area. Consult with your doctor before using any of the mentioned medicines.