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What are the Effects of Malaria on Health?

Article Details
  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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The effects of malaria on health can be debilitating, causing permanent liver or kidney damage, or death in severe cases, depending upon the species of mosquito that carries the disease. Some parasites carried by mosquitoes produce less serious reactions but can remain in the body for months or years. Pregnant women and children are at increased risk of negative effects of malaria on health because immunity to the disease is compromised during pregnancy and hasn’t yet developed in young children.

During pregnancy, immunity to malaria is temporarily impaired by hormonal changes. This poses serious consequences to the health of women in their childbearing years, complicated by the fact that drugs to prevent or treat malaria are not recommended for use during pregnancy. Pregnant women are more prone to infection and anemia, which can contribute to higher infant mortality rates, premature delivery, and low birth weight. Children do not develop immunity to the disease for several years after birth.

Malaria is widespread in many tropical countries where mosquitoes are prevalent. Mosquitoes carry the disease in saliva, which is transmitted to humans when they are bitten. The bite causes a parasite to enter the human bloodstream, where it migrates to the liver and infects red blood cells. These parasites multiply until fever develops from an impaired immune system.

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Those bitten by an infected mosquito develop flu-like symptoms approximately one to fours weeks later. Fever, muscle aches, and fatigue are common complaints and can re-occur every few days. The effects of malaria on health may also develop into anemia and jaundice, which produces a yellow color in the skin and whites of the eyes. If the disease in not treated promptly, it could result in liver or kidney failure, coma, and death.

Prescription medication can cure malaria if treated early. The type of drug used depends on the area where the disease initiated. In some tropical countries, mosquitoes have become resistant to certain medications. Drugs are also available to prevent adverse effects of malaria on health, and are advised when traveling to any country where the disease exists.

Preventative measures should be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Repellents and mosquito netting around the bed can help when traveling to areas where malaria is present. Sleeping areas and clothing can be sprayed with insecticides if they are not well-screened. Long sleeves and long pants also help reduce the possibility of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquito bites occur most often at dawn and dusk, and extra precautions should be taken at such times.

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