Malaria: An Insight into Its Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

By Ranjita Mathew

Malaria is a disease which is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Over a million people die each year as a result of this disease. Since the end of the twentieth century, malaria has been recognized as a serious threat, and every effort has been made to combat it. In spite of this, the disease is rampant in many parts of the world. This reading deals with the causes of malaria, its risk factors or contributing factors, and its prevention.

Malaria is caused by four different species of a parasite of the genus Plasmodium. Of these, the parasite Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the most deadly form of the disease. The carrier is a female Anopheles mosquito, which transmits the parasite to human beings. The mosquito ingests the microscopic parasite as it sucks the blood of a person with malaria. When the mosquito bites a healthy person, the mature parasite mixes with the saliva and enters the blood stream. Thus, the victim is infected with the disease.

Certain risk factors are associated with malaria. Location is the first. Since Anopheles mosquitoes thrive in warm climates, malaria is endemic () in many tropical and sub-tropical countries. Also, certain segments of populations are more vulnerable to this disease. Pregnant women, young children and travellers who come from areas where the incidence of the disease is low are at greater risk as their immune systems are weak. Approximately, 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa, south of the Sahara. Most of the victims are children under five years of age.

Early efforts at treatment focused on the development of medicines to fight the disease. This resulted in the parasite developing resistance to the drugs. Subsequently, disease prevention has focused primarily on treatment of stagnant water since mosquitoes breed and develop in such places. Malaria can be prevented by:

1.     Using mosquito nets to avoid being bitten by the insects

2.     Using prescribed malaria drugs to kill the parasite before it incubates

3.     Eradicating () mosquito breeding sites

4.     Wearing long-sleeved clothing

5.     Applying insect repellent creams when outdoors

To conclude, malaria is a life-threatening disease. It is caused by the parasite Plasmodium. People living in certain areas of the world and belonging to certain segments of the population are at greater risk of contracting malaria than are other individuals. If scientists are successful in producing a cheap and effective vaccine, this will greatly benefit mankind. Meanwhile, people can reduce the number of malaria cases in the world by taking the necessary precautions.

Reading Comprehension

Directions: Write your answers in the boxes provided. Afterwards, scroll down the page to check your answers.

1.     What factors contribute to the incidence of malaria?

2.     How is the disease transmitted?

3.     What causes malaria?

4.     How can you prevent the disease?

5.     Is malaria a fatal disease? Who is at greatest risk of contracting the disease?

6.     Identify whether the following are causes or effects and establish the relation between them. The first has been done for you.

Example: a. Plasmodium falciparum (cause) d. malaria (effect)

a.     Plasmodium falciparum

b.     Warm climates

c.     Female Anopheles mosquitoes

d.     Malaria

e.     Stagnant water

f.      Weak immune systems in young children and pregnant women

Answers

1.      People living in warm climates are at risk. Also, pregnant women, young children and travellers risk contracting malaria.

2.      The disease is transmitted to human beings by the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes carrying the Plasmodium parasite

3.      The disease is caused by four species of a parasite belonging to the genus Plasmodium.

4.      By getting rid of stagnant water, by using mosquito nets, by taking the prescribed malaria medicine, by wearing long-sleeved clothing and by using repellent creams

5.      If the malaria is caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite and if it is not treated immediately, it can be fatal. Young children under the age of five who lives in Africa, south of the Sahara, is at greatest risk of contracting malaria.

6.      Question 6

Example: a. Plasmodium falciparum (cause) d. malaria (effect)

f. weak immune systems in young children and pregnant women (cause) d. to malaria (effect)

b. warm climates and e. stagnant water (cause) c. Anopheles mosquitoes (effect)