An Introduction to Malaria

    Just how deadly can a mosquito be? Malaria is a parasitic disease caused by infected mosquitoes which are rampant across Africa. This disease has destroyed lives, impacted relationships, and influenced futures.

    Every year, there are about 207 million cases of Malaria, 90% of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Of all cases, there are anywhere from 1 to 3 billion deaths per year. Most deaths from Malaria are African children under the age of 5. It is estimated that a child dies every minute from Malaria in Africa. Also, the people most susceptible to Malaria are those with HIV or AIDS. Dealing with and treating Malaria costs the continent of Africa around $12 billion each year.

    How does a person get Malaria? This disease is caused by a parasite, but transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The transmission cycle goes like this:

1. First, an uninfected mosquito feeds on an infected person. The mosquito is now infected with Malaria.

2. Next, the infected mosquito bites an uninfected person, transmitting the Malaria parasite to them.

3. Then the parasite travels to the liver, where it can lie dormant for up to a year.

4. The parasite eventually moves from the liver into the bloodstream and infects the red blood cells. The blood cells die and clog the body's blood vessels, depriving the organs and tissues of oxygen and eventually killing the person.

5. To end the vicious cycle, the disease will travel to the next person - an infected mosquito bites an uninfected person, and the person becomes infected with Malaria.

    There are four types of mosquitoes that can transmit Malaria: the Plasmodium Falciprum, Plasmodium Vivax, Plasmodium Malarie, and Plasmodium Ovale. The Falciprum and Vivax are the most common, with the Falciprum being the most deadly. The Plasmodium Falciprum is responsible for 97% of Malaria deaths.

    As the parasite begins to infect red blood cells, there are many damaging bodily effects.  For one, people obtain a high fever, chills and body aches.  Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common.  When bitten by the Plasmodium Falciprum, some affects that may occur are organ failure, impaired consciousness and the possibility of falling into a coma. Although malaria is a serious disease, it can be prevented.  There are certain vaccines that can be taken, and wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants can help keep the mosquitoes off of you.  Insect-repellent will also assist in fending off infected mosquitoes.  Since many families in Africa do not have the money for these extents, there are voluntary organizations that donate insecticide-treated nets.  These nets can be placed over beds and help to block mosquitoes from biting people while the are sleeping.

    Malaria takes many lives in Africa, especially children, bringing the life expectancy of many countries down and worsening economies from the excessive amounts of money spent from trying to help eradicate this disease.  However, the number of Malaria cases is slowly decreasing in Africa with the help of certain organizations and charities.