Malaria Treatment and Vaccination in Abingdon, VA
*WARNING: this condition is potentially life-threatening. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, don't wait. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.*
Are you experiencing fever, chills, sweating, headaches, diarrhea, and nausea? Have you recently traveled to Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, or the Pacific Islands? You may have contracted malaria, a disease spread by mosquito bites.
Malaria can be fatal if left untreated, and its symptoms are easily confused with those of other conditions. Seeing your medical provider is critically important so malaria can be diagnosed or ruled out.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Malaria causes flulike-symptoms symptoms that are easily mistaken for other medical conditions. Because symptoms can take 2 weeks or longer to appear, their cause may not always be obvious. It's easier for your medical provider to make a diagnosis if you've traveled abroad within the past month and are showing malaria symptoms, including:
- high fever
- yellow skin or eyes (jaundice )
- nausea and vomiting
- chronic fatigue
- body aches
Malaria can also cause you to fall into a coma, though this is rare and typically occurs only in extreme cases.
Children with severe malaria may become anemic , a condition that occurs after losing a large number of blood cells. Children may also have trouble breathing, or they may experience cerebral malaria, which usually leads to brain damage from swelling.
What causes malaria?
Malaria is spread by mosquitoes carrying malaria parasites (protozoa of the genus Plasmodium). When these disease carriers (vectors) bite you, the parasites enter your bloodstream and travel to your liver, where they multiply and cause symptoms.
There are five species of Plasmodium that can infect humans with malaria:
- P. vivax: commonly found in Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa, these infections can cause potentially fatal spleen ruptures and can hide in your liver, returning a year later and causing symptom relapse
- P. ovale: mostly found in Africa and the Pacific Islands, infections strongly resemble the symptoms of P. vivax
- P. malariae: found worldwide, but less common than other forms; especially hard to diagnose because there are typically very few parasites to be found in your blood; can last for many years
- P. falciparum: the most lethal malaria strain, it's present in most tropical and subtropical regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa; quite resistant to most older malaria drugs
- P. knowlesi: mostly found in southeast Asia, this strain causes high levels of parasites in your blood and can cause organ failure and death
P. falciparum and P. vivax are the most dangerous to humans. When traveling to sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, or Latin America, take preventative steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
How is malaria diagnosed?
Many diseases affect people living or traveling in subtropical and tropical locations. These include tuberculosis, yellow fever, dengue fever, typhoid, pneumonia , and many more. That's why diagnosing malaria quickly and early is so important for your recovery.
Blood testing is the best way to identify malaria parasites. Your medical provider will draw a blood sample, and if parasites are detected will attempt to identify them to begin creating your treatment plan.
Rapid tests can detect proteins called antigens present in Plasmodium. Because these tests aren't always conclusive by themselves, they're usually supplemented with microscopic blood examination.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) detects malaria DNA, but it isn't widely available. It may be used as a supplemental diagnostic tool if your medical provider is having trouble identifying the malaria parasites in your blood.
If you've recently traveled to an area where malarial mosquitoes are known to exist and you're experiencing malaria symptoms, don't wait - get emergency medical attention right away. The most important part of malaria treatment is an early diagnosis. Longer times between infection and treatment make curing malaria much more difficult, or even impossible. Left untreated, malaria can kill you.
How is malaria treated?
There's a huge variety of medications that can treat malaria effectively. Your medical provider will make a recommendation based on your symptoms and infection type. Some medications work synergistically to treat your symptoms and knock out offending parasites.
Anti-malarial medications can reduce your chance of transmission by up to 90%. Chloroquine and proguanil interfere with the growth of parasites in your red blood cells. While these drugs offer protection against malaria, they cannot cure you of malaria once you're infected.
Anti-malarial drugs can produce side effects like irreversible damage of the retina, and may not be available to people with certain immune disorders.
If your symptoms are very mild, your medical provider may advise you to take oral medication and painkillers and stay hydrated until your body removes the parasites by itself. You'll be monitored during this period so your medical provider can check your progress and make sure your symptoms haven't worsened.
Some strains of malaria may produce symptoms that go dormant, then return after a year or longer. This happens when your treatment fails to remove all the offending parasites and they begin reproducing again. This is called recrudescent malaria. Speak with your medical provider to discuss treatment options when this occurs.
Getting malaria while you're pregnant is extremely serious. Treatment during pregnancy requires intense care and very sensitive managing, as malaria can cause premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, and many severe complications for the expectant mother.
If you are pregnant, avoid travel in regions known for malaria.
While no vaccine is yet available, recent research shows promising results that may lead to an effective vaccine eventually.1 This research is ongoing.
These home remedies have been used to treat malaria infection:
- ginger: may have immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties; can be eaten by itself or in food, or boiled and drunk
- grapefruit: this quinine-like fruit is loaded with vitamin C; taking concentrated extract or eating grapefruit may neutralize malarial parasites
- turmeric: anti-oxidant and antimicrobial properties help flush out harmful toxins caused by plasmodium infection and killing malaria parasite; reduces muscle and joint pain
- cinnamon: may have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce malaria symptoms; eating even small amounts can cause severe mouth and throat dryness, potentially causing choking and difficulty breathing
- fever nut: may reduce or prevent fever and boost the immune system
- holy basil: has antibacterial properties; may disrupt certain blood thinning medications
- vitamin C: antioxidant properties have positive effects on the immune system
How can I avoid malaria?
If you're traveling to a region known for malaria, protecting yourself from mosquitoes is the best way of avoiding it. Methods of mosquito protection include:
- avoiding heavily wooded or swampy areas, especially at night
- wearing mosquito repellent
- covering exposed skin
- traveling by day and limiting outdoor activity at night
- making sure window screens are fitted properly
- wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible
- using mosquito netting if you're sleeping outside, or if your lodging doesn't have window screens
Reserve Your Appointment Now
If you've recently traveled to Asia, Africa, Latin America, or the Middle East and you're showing flu-like symptoms, see your medical provider or get emergency medical attention immediately. Diagnosing malaria and starting treatment as soon as possible greatly increases your chances of making a successful recovery and avoiding recrudescent malaria.
1. Sissoko, Mahamadou S, et al. "Safety and Efficacy of PfSPZ Vaccine against Plasmodium Falciparum via Direct Venous Inoculation in Healthy Malaria-Exposed Adults in Mali: a Randomised, Double-Blind Phase 1 Trial." The Lancet Infectious Diseases, vol. 17, no. 5, 2017, pp. 498–509., doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(17)30104-4.
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