While the news has continued to focus on new developments in the Zika Virus, another, more-widespread virus, is utilizing mosquitos as a mode of transmission. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites, and is transmitted to humans by the Anopheles mosquito. The life cycle of Plasmodium parasites occurs in both mosquitos and humans.
When the parasite is brought to humans by the mosquito, the parasite infects and begins causing symptoms. In mosquitos, the parasite lives without affecting the host in a negative way. As seen in the map below, malaria is most commonly noticed in central Africa, parts of Asia, and some countries in South America. Malaria is also seen in less frequent amounts throughout central and eastern Asia, central America, and parts of Mexico. Children, pregnant women, those who have compromised immune systems, and those who have never traveled to a region with Malaria are most at risk to contract the disease.
Malaria usually presents 7-30 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Many times, malaria is treatable if diagnosed quickly. The primary symptoms include fever, sweats, headaches, chills, and vomiting. As the disease progresses, generally in the next 48 hours after symptoms are first observed, symptoms can worsen, including seizures, kidney failure, hypoglycemia, blood coagulation, and severe fevers. If not treated quickly, malaria can become fatal.
Fortunately, there are treatments available for those who are diagnosed with malaria, and many are effective if started quickly after diagnosis. Many drugs focus on killing the parasite that causes malaria. While these treatments exist in the United States and other developed countries however, they are not as accessible in many of the regions that are hit the hardest by malaria.
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