Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. However, the lack of prevention and treatment due to poverty, ignorance, war, and other economic and social instabilities in endemic areas results in millions of deaths each year.
Internationally, malaria is responsible for approximately 1-3 million deaths per year. Of these deaths, the overwhelming majority are in children aged 5 years or younger, and 80-90% of the deaths each year are in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the problems with Malaria treatment is that it is often taken for granted. The purpose of this article is to inform the general public of just how bizzare and severe Malaria could get if it goes untreated.
Most complications of Malaria are caused by a particular specie of the parasite called Plasmodium falciparum. When these complications occur the assessment changes from uncomplicated malaria to severe malaria, which has several different forms including:
- Cerebral malaria: This is characterised by coma, altered mental status, behavioural anomalies, or multiple convulsions with the parasite in the blood. This is one of the most common causes of death in patients with malaria. If left untreated, it will definitely kill the patient. Even with treatment, 15% of children and 20% of adults with cerebral malaria will still die. Surprisingly, it’s more severe in well fed children. Hmmmm
- Very Low blood sugar: This often occurs in young children and pregnant women
- Convulsions: This may be due to either low blood sugar or cerebral malaria.
- Kidney failure: As many as 30% of adults without immunity to malaria, who get infected with P falciparum will suffer acute renal failure.
- Accumulation of fluid inside the lungs: This affliction occurs despite normal heart function and is most common in pregnant women; it usually results in death in 80% of patients.
- Severe low blood level (anaemia): This occurs as a result of massive breakdown of the red blood cells.
- Abnormal excessive bleeding (coagulopathy): This is characterised by bleeding into skin, from the nose and mouth as well as the possibility of internal bleeding.
It is the author’s sincere hope that this article will cause readers to have a new found respect for the malaria parasite, understand how serious malaria could become when it goes untreated and make a commitment to ensure early diagnosis and prompt treatment as well as preventive measures to aid in the eradication of this scourge.