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Malaria

Causes, symptoms and treatment options for malaria

Malaria is considered one of the most dangerous diseases in the world, and is one of the biggest risks that travellers can face while abroad, infecting and killing millions of people every single year. If you are planning on travelling to an area where malaria is endemic it is essential that you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself against the disease. There are several different antimalarial treatments available, each of which differ according to dosage and the risk factor of the area that you will be visiting.

If you are planning a trip abroad, you may benefit from our free online consultation which could help you to select the most appropriate malaria treatment for you. We offer free overnight delivery, so you can be sure that you will receive your medication in time for your travels.

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euroClinix is an international healthcare provider, offering comprehensive medical services in many different languages.

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Malarone

Malarone

Star Rating 5 (8 Reviews)
    • A single daily dose is effective in killing the infection
    • Prevents the spread of the parasite in the body
    • Treatment begins two days before your trip and ends one week after
More Info
Doxycycline

Doxycycline

Star Rating 4.9 (34 Reviews)
    • Prevents and effectively treats malaria
    • Suitable for sufferers of epilepsy and psoriasis
    • Works best in countries where the disease is tolerant of traditional malaria treatment
More Info

What is Malaria?

Malaria is an infection of the blood that can be contracted through getting bitten by the Anopheles mosquito. The malaria infection can cause people to become sick within days and even up to a year after the initial bite and will need immediate medical attention to treat malaria symptoms. If left untreated malaria can be fatal, which is why it is so important to take preventative care before travelling and during your stay.

Although people are most at risk of getting Malaria in tropical countries, there are over 100 where infection is possible. The risk varies depending on the area you are travelling to but preventative measures will reduce the risk further.

What are the causes of malaria?

Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite, which is carried by the female anopheles mosquito. When this mosquito bites an infected person, it contracts the parasite and passes it on to the next person it bites. Once it is in the bloodstream, the parasite travels to the liver and invades your red blood cells, where it multiplies. The blood cells eventually burst, releasing large numbers of the parasites into your body. This usually occurs in cycles of 48-72 hours, causing feverish symptoms such as sweating and chills.

Malaria Transmission Cycle
Malaria Transmission Cycle

As mosquitoes drink blood, they can contract the infection and easily pass it onto animals and humans, however, malaria is not known to be contagious from human to human. After being bitten the parasite is able to travel in the bloodstream and infect your red blood cells. Here they are able to multiply to a point where the blood cells become full and burst which releases more parasites into the body.

How is Malaria transmitted?

There are different types of Malaria parasites in different areas affected by the disease. Depending on which type of malaria is contracted, the symptom severity can vary:

  • Plasmodium falciparum – this is type of mosquito that is more common in Africa. It causes the most dangerous symptoms in humans.
  • Plasmodium vivax – this mosquito is usually found in South America and Asia. Although the symptoms are milder than Plasmodium falciparum they can stay dormant for long periods of time. This can cause people that think they have recovered to relapse later down the line.
  • Plasmodium ovale – most likely place to be infected by this parasite is West Africa, but it is uncommon. People infected can live without symptoms at all for years before getting sick.
  • Plasmodium Malarae – a rare type of parasite that is mostly found in Africa and causes malarial symptoms such as fevers that recur at three-day intervals.
  • Plasmodium knowlesi – another parasite found mainly in Southeast Asia accounting for around 70% of malarial cases in the region. It can be very fatal if not treated in time due to its short blood cycle/

The Anopheles mosquito is one of the most common methods of malaria transmission, however, because the malaria parasite is present in red blood cells, it can also be transmitted via blood transfusion, organ transplant or through the sharing of needles, though this is much less likely to occur.

There is also the possibility of malaria transmission from a mother to her child during birth, something which is known as congenital malaria, but this is also much rarer than malaria transmission via mosquito bite from the Anopheles mosquito.

Generally a mosquito will bite a person that has a malaria parasite present in their red blood cells, thereby becoming infected with the parasite.

Ideally malaria transmission shouldn't occur if you've taken the correct precautions but if a transmission does occur, it's important to seek treatment early on in the malaria life cycle, as certain parasites can cause serious complications.

What malaria symptoms do you need to look out for?

After malaria transmission has occurred, a person isn't likely to feel ill straight away. As part of the plasmodium parasite's life cycle, it needs to mature before showing symptoms. Malaria symptoms could start to appear as early as seven days after malaria transmission or it can take many years for the parasite to start making you feel unwell. However, it's more likely to cause symptoms a couple of days or weeks after malaria transmission has taken place.

Malaria symptoms occur when the blood cells infected with the parasite burst. The symptoms can last around 2 to 3 days at a time and come and go. The most common malaria symptoms are similar to those you may experience when you have the flu, they include:

  • High fever (38°C or above)
  • Muscle pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Sweats and chills
  • Anaemia
  • Convulsions
  • Jaundice

The plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is the most dangerous malaria parasite, can cause more severe malaria symptoms, such as seizures, kidney failure and even a coma which usually set in about a week after transmission.

Every time malaria symptoms appear this is a sign that the infection is getting worse. If left untreated it has the potential to cause damage to internal organs. Please seek mediacl assistance immediately if you have reason to believe you might have been infected with malaria.

Where am I most at risk?

As the female anopheles mosquito carries the malaria parasites, you are most at risk in climates that are hot and humid where this mosquito lives. High risk areas include North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

How is malaria treated?

Malaria treatment is usually provided within a hospital. Depending on the parasite type treatment will be provided accordingly. Unfortunately the treatment for malaria is not always effective in clearing the blood infection which is why preventing malaria is the best option. To overcome the treatment being ineffective doctors may need to provide more than one type of malaria treatment to ensure the infection is treated entirely. In some cases different treatments may be tried before the right one is found.

How to prevent malaria?

The best way to avoid contracting malaria is to take preventative measures. The first step in doing so is checking whether you are at risk of infection, if this is the case ensure the right treatment is taken for the type of parasite you are at risk of when travelling abroad. Malarone and Doxycycline are treatments that protects those who travel against all types of malaria and are also effective in treating parasites that are resistant to chloroquine.

Other types of prescription medication for malaria treatment include Paludrine/Avloclor which is usually used in travellers that are at a lower risk. Other ways to avoid infection include:

  • Preventing bites by ensuring skin is not exposed and by covering your sleeping area by using mosquito nets.
  • Awareness of hotspots with a high rate of mosquito bites and possible avoiding such areas when travelling
  • If you do show malaria symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately. As the infection can lay dormant for up to a year even after returning home symptoms should be checked.
  • Have prescription medication on hand to help prevent the spread of the parasite

How can I protect myself against malaria?

It is essential that you begin your course of preventative treatment before you travel abroad to a high risk area. You can also protect yourself against mosquito bites by applying mosquito-repellent creams. Some sunscreens now contain ingredients which help to prevent insect bites. It is also advisable to use a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide to discourage mosquitoes at night, when they are their most active

Can I obtain malaria treatment online?

Yes, malaria treatment is available here online from euroClinix. Check first the area you are visiting to find out whether or not the parasite is resistant to choloroquine (high risk areas) and choose treatment accordingly. You will first need to complete an online consultation, which will be viewed by one of our doctors. The doctor will then confirm that the treatment is safe and effective for you at your chosen destination, and the medication is then prescribed to you. This prescription will be filled by our pharmacy, which will dispatch the medication to you via our overnight delivery service, which is completely free.

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