Τρίτη, 12 Νοεμβρίου 2013

Malaria: The scourge of Africa

   
It is useful for the Mission members who travel mainly to the African countries to know a few basic things about malaria, which is endemic and plagues these countries, so that they can take the necessary precautions.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a serious parasitic infection caused due to plasmodium, a parasite which attacks the red blood cells.
The most common kinds of this parasite that cause the disease are the following: Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae and P. knowlesi. From these, Plasmodium falciparum is the most possible parasite to cause a serious infection, which, unless properly treated, can lead to death.

How is malaria transmitted?

The most usual way of infection is the bite of an infected female mosquito belonging to the Anopheles genus. Only mosquitoes of this species can transmit malaria, and of course, before that, they must have bitten a person infected with the parasite that causes malaria.
The disease can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant and shared use of contaminated needles or syringes. More rarely malaria can pass from mother to fetus.
The parasite cannot be transmitted from one person to another through the usual social (for instance, a handshake, a kiss), or sexual intercourse.

Geographical distribution of malaria

The disease is endemic in over a 100 countries. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, 300-500 million people are infected every year.
Most of them are children under the age of 5, while there are more than a million recorded deaths annually.
Climate conditions affect the geographical as well as the seasonal distribution of the disease. In many tropical areas the disease is transmitted throughout the year while in temperate regions the transmission is practically interrupted in the cold months.
More serious consequences of malaria are noticed in the sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Western Africa. Next come Oceania, Southeastern Asia and South America.
During the seasonal upsurge of the disease and especially in the endemic regions and at an altitude of less than 1,500-2,000 meters, the danger is high. The mosquitoes that transmit the disease cannot survive at higher altitudes.

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What are the symptoms of malaria?

The main and most common symptoms of malaria are: high fever with chills, perspiration, headache, myalgia (muscle pain) and suffering. The fever occurs every second or third day. Other secondary symptoms are nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Also, in some cases hypoglycemia, anemia, and icterus might occur due to the destruction of the red cells (haemolysis). Unless there is prompt treatment, in severe forms of the disease there can be occurrences of neurological symptoms, renal or respiratory failure, and the patient can lapse into a coma. Most cases that result in implications or even death are due to delayed diagnosis and (or) not prompt treatment.

How soon do the symptoms appear?

The time of symptom occurrence varies. In most cases though, the symptoms appear within 10 days or up to 4 weeks since the bite. The infection from Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale can reappear even after 4-8 years.

Preventive measures

They aim at reducing the potential risk of a mosquito bite.
The mosquitoes that transmit malaria mainly bite between sunset and sunrise. This is why the following advice is strongly recommended: Choose long-sleeved clothes and long trousers to wear in order to be better protected. The bedrooms should have a mosquito bed net and-or door and window screens. Use insecticides (tablets, spiral repellents or sprays), fans, air-conditioners and personal protective methods (such as mosquito repellents) before night sleep. The preventive intake of special medicines (e.g., Lariam) from those traveling to malaria-endemic countries should be arranged in consultation with their doctor.

What is the cure for malaria?

The cure for malaria (that is, the kind of drug and the intake period) depends on the plasmodium that causes this infection and the area where the infection occurred, due to resistance to some anti-malarial drugs. Also, the treatment depends on the age, the seriousness of the patient’s condition and the possibility of pregnancy.
The anti-malarial drugs that are generally prescribed for the prevention of malaria include atovaquone /proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquiine and chloroquine. There should be prompt treatment in the first stages of the disease before it becomes chronic or develops into a more severe form.
The drugs used in self-treatment patterns are: artemether/lumefantrine,
ihydroartemisinin/piperaquine, atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, quinine, cllindamycin, mefloquine, primaquine and chloroquine.
The persons frequently exposed to the plasmodium of malaria in the endemic countries are gradually developing a partial immunity, which means that they do not fall ill with severe symptoms. However, this immunity does not last for long if they go far from the endemic countries of their residence, therefore they can contract a new infection from the parasite.

Is there any vaccine against malaria?

Currently there is no vaccine against malaria. However, the researches for the creation of a vaccine are progressing and vaccines against malaria are expected to be released in the near future.

Malaria and Orthodox Mission Abroad

The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity in Thessalonica, is one of the institutions that, inter alia, has developed remarkable action, also aiming, directly or indirectly, at combating malaria in the so-called “countries of the Third World”.
It is obvious the fact that in the poor countries of the Third World the chances of taking preventive measures are limited, and so is the access to reliable and prompt medical treatment. As a result, a large number of people contract the disease and remain helpless despite our efforts.
Μain source:KEELPNO/Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Karampatakis Vassilios
Professor – Ophthalmologist, Regular member of the Fraternity
Nakos Elias
Military Ophthalmologist

http://orthodoxmission.org.gr/2013/11/malaria-the-scourge-of-africa/

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