12 essential facts about malaria you may not know

How much do you really know about this infectious disease? Learn more here.

13 July 2015
by Ruth Rehbock

Malaria, which affects almost five million people every year worldwide, is a disease caused by a single-celled, microscopic and parasitic organism. It requires the Anopheles mosquito and either human or animal blood cells to complete its life cycle. The reason malaria kills so many people every year (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa) is because it’s able to spread and multiply so easily. Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest form of the disease and as many as 2.2 billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting this type of malaria.

Did you also know that…

1. In 2013, there were 584 000 deaths from malaria worldwide.

2. Scientists have conducted clinical trials of a new anti-malaria vaccine, named the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, in seven countries in Africa, which is the most advanced one to date. This vaccine has been developed by the public-private partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) Malaria Vaccine Initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Scientists are expecting to hear whether it has been approved and recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and should have an answer later this year. Read more about it here: http://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/?p=5357

3. Malaria recurs in some people because the parasite migrates to the liver where it lies dormant for weeks or months after the initial infection. If it’s in the liver, medications that target the liver are used to cure the person completely.
 
4. During the past decade, the World Health Organisation has certified four countries as having eliminated malaria. They are: United Arab Emirates (since 2007), Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010) and Armenia (2011).

5. People who live in malaria areas develop partial immunity due to years of exposure to the parasite however, this immunity only occurs in adults. Exposure over years also reduces the risk that malaria will cause severe illness.

6. Young children who have not yet developed immunity to the parasite are particularly vulnerable to malaria. It kills as many as 50 children per hour!

7. Continents other than Africa (90% of deaths occur in Africa) affected by malaria include Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Europe.

8. The most effective and economical way to prevent transmission of malaria is through the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (one net can protect two people for up to three years).

9. If you aren’t treated for malaria, the infection can cause brain damage, coma, loss of muscle function and death.

10. As much as half the world’s population is at risk for malaria.
 
11. Those most at risk for infection include those infected with HIV, pregnant women, and travellers and immigrants from other countries because they lack immunity.

12. Malaria is detrimental to Africa’s economy. In 2013, it cost Africa more than R360 billion in lost gross domestic product (GDP is one of the primary indicators to gauge the health of a country’s economy).

Malaria tests now available at Clicks Clinics

If you develop influenza-like symptoms or fever within seven days after visiting a malaria risk area, malaria screenings are now conveniently available at all Clicks Clinics nationwide. A 15-minute consultation includes a finger prick blood test, with immediate results. To book an appointment at your nearest Clicks Clinic, visit Clicks Clinics online or call 0860 254 257.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com