With a simple flash test malaria can be diagnosed. One drop of blood from the fingertip is enough. Photo: humedica
World Malaria Day
The number of cases of death due to malaria is decreasing, but that is no reason to gasp of relief. According to a survey by the American University of Washington, this malicious disease killed 1.2 million people in 2010 alone – nearly twice as much as the World Health Organization (WHO) had supposed.
But what is so dangerous about this tropical disease? So unpredictable? Against the background of the international World Malaria Day, we want to give you, once again, an overview of the disease pattern. What’s the course of disease like? What are the symptoms? In which humedica project countries, malaria still plays a dangerous role?
Malaria, also called ague or remittent fever, is the most frequent tropical disease in the world. It is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito and appears mainly on the African continent. Depending on the source of the figures, the number of infected persons varies between 250 and 300 million per year.
We know three different forms of this infection: The malaria tropica, the malaria tertiana and the malaria quartana. They are all conditioned by different parasitical protozoas known as plasmodia. In order to survive, these germs run through a bipartite life-circle:
After biting a person, who had already been infected with malaria and thus absorbing the germs itself, so-called sporozoites are developed in the mosquito’s stomach. By biting another person, the parasites get into the human bloodstream and cause the appearance of cells called schizonts.
From this moment on, the development of the individual malaria germs is variable – that is the cause of the three different types of this disease.
The most dangerous is deemed to be malaria tropica. The illness appears after an incubation period of approximately twelve days. The infected person suffers from influenza-like symptoms like fever, sweating, headache and growing pains.
Moreover, consciousness disorders and maybe even coma may appear as well as anemia and lung, heart or renal damages. Without any treatment, about 30 percent of the affected people die.
Unlike malaria tropica, the benign forms malaria tertiana and malaria quartana provoke typical periodical fever attacks together with the influenza-like symptoms.
The latter is characterized by a considerably longer incubation period, a higher risk of renal complications and the possibility of a recurring outbreak of the disease, even after many years. Death occurs only very rarely with the two weaker forms of the disease, even without appropriate treatment.
In the Western hemisphere, the diagnosis of malaria is generally effected by microscopic proof of germs in the blood. As this procedure is, most of the time, simply not possible with the predominantly African patients, medical teams there rely on simple flash tests.
There are different efficient remedies used in the treatment. Especially the most dangerous malaria tropicana should be detected and treated as fast as possible. It is true that there are precautionary measures which offer a certain protection against malaria, like avoiding mosquito bites or taking prophylactic remedy for malaria, but the people who live in the areas with risk have little possibilities to realize those measures.
In the developing countries, bad medical care and poor housing lead to many cases of death. What is most tragical: 56 percent of the people who die of malaria in Africa are children under 5.
For over 30 years now, humedica has been involved in developing countries and countries agitated by crisis and has regularly been confronted with this disease on-site. Be it Haiti, Ethiopia or Pakistan, malaria exists everywhere.
Especially during the hot and humid rain period in August and September the rate of infected patients rises considerably. Thus, in the hospital in Kollo / Nigeria which is carried on by humedica, 80 percent of the medicated patients suffered from malaria in the end of summer 2011.
In many humedica project countries, malaria is a permanent danger for the local people as well as for our field staff. The risk of infection is extremely high in African countries like Ethiopia, Niger or the Central African Republic. But also in Asian countries like Sri Lanka or in South American Brazil, there is an extremely high danger of malaria infection in some regions. And also in the project countries Pakistan and on the Philppines, regions which are not often associated with this disease, malaria exists in the altitudes.