Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Humans can be infected by four types of parasites-Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. Only an infected Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria. The mosquito itself is infected by when it bites an infected person. Malaria is found in red blood cells, and as such can rarely be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants, shared use of contaminated needles, as well as from mother to child before or during delivery.
Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea, and vomiting 10 days to two weeks after a person is infected. Untreated, these symptoms can persist and cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.
Malaria is typically found in tropical and subtropical countries. Young children, pregnant women, and poor communities who are not aware of malaria prevention methods and cannot afford sustained medical care are the most vulnerable. Around the world, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. Malaria was the fourth cause of death in children in developing countries in 2002. In 2006, malaria was present in 109 countries and territories, including sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Europe. In 2006, India had an estimated 10.6 million known malaria cases.
Vector control is the best method of Malaria malaria prevention. This can be done by using of insecticide-treated bed nets, applying indoor insecticide sprays to the walls and roofs, and reducing or covering of large pools of stagnant water, ideal mosquito breeding environment.
Early treatment of malaria reduces duration, prevents complications, and reduces chance of death. The World Health Organization recommends immediate treatment, as early as within 24 hours after onset of symptoms. The best available treatment is a combination of drugs known as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). A growing resistance to these medicines is limiting the efficacy of these drugs.