Malaria, as most have heard and known, is one of the leading causes of illnesses and deaths in developing countries, but what do we know about it
The species of mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria, the female Anopheles mosquito1, not only bites humans indoors and outdoors, but they also feed at night and early morning hours. Local weather conditions in tropical and subtropical areas like the Philippines allow the possibility of catching the disease all year ‘round, which means a trip anywhere humid can get anyone infected, sometimes even when a place looks clean and tidy.
Take this case2 for example: A doctor from the United States (Dr. Joe Donzelli) and his daughter Julia both caught malaria during their trip to the Dominican Republic in 2018.
This story from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that they have made appropriate preparations for going to a tropical country, but the disease did not spare the father-daughter duo who have been staying at a nice resort. Julia quickly developed fever and aches with very low blood pressure and was diagnosed with severe malaria.
Julia’s physician informed Dr. Donzelli about her condition, so he got himself checked in and hospitalized right away, even without being symptomatic. He had an uncomplicated case, unlike her daughter and both of them recovered 100% due to immediate medical attention and precaution.
Malaria or flu? Symptoms can be confusing
Here is a visual: Your family visits a beach for vacation, and you have the time of your lives splashing around, enjoying the sun, sand, and everything in between. Days pass and one of the kids gets a lingering headache, joint pain, fever, and general yet serious discomfort.
You take him for a check-up and coming from the trip you just had, his chances of having malaria are high.
Since the disease is not uncommon in the country, it will not be as hard to diagnose as long you will correctly give out the needed information during a consultation. However, signs of having the disease can be interchangeable with having the flu.3
Aside from the mentioned symptoms, other things that can point to a malaria case are coughs, fatigue, body weakness, chills, chest pain, sweating, and in some cases, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Over the course of the illness, cerebral malaria and coma, kidney failure, and respiratory problems may occur, too. Needless to say, if your child or anyone in the family appears to be having a severe case of sickness, get to the doctor immediately.
Testing, screenings, options for treatments
Malaria is diagnosed through a peripheral blood smear. This procedure of taking a blood sample from the patient is done to confirm a.) infection and b.) the type of malaria your child might have.
For treatments, we have plenty of options in the Philippines. Case-to-case basis, for sure, so be sure to check with your family doctor or your trusted healthcare provider.
Based on the consultation and state of your child’s health, you can opt for combination drugs — but like most things, treatment is relative to a lot of things like age, the severity of malaria, pregnancy status, anti-malaria drugs previously taken, and more.
Anti-malaria medication and treatments can make one experience5 stomach issues like nausea and diarrhea, light sensitivity, seizures, anemia, insomnia and disturbing dreams, vision issues, high-pitched ringing in the ears, etc.
Are there ways to avoid malaria?
Malaria is endemic in many provinces in the Philippines (Palawan, Occidental Mindoro, Sulu, Sultan Kudarat, and Palawan) so transmissions can happen to anyone in the area.
It is not as widespread as it was, but if you have plans to travel or stay in areas where it is common, you can prepare ahead!
Curb the illness for you and your family and reduce your chances of getting infected/re-infected. One major thing about this is to take serious precautions to avoid mosquito bites of any kind. Here are some suggestions:
Get Prophylaxis. This anti-malaria medication taken a week before travelling to a place known to have the disease can also be taken up to three (3) weeks.
Bring and apply mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) to any of your exposed skin areas.3
A good coat of insect-repelling lotion is one of your first defenses against malaria. Re-apply as much as you need.
If you can, prepare and draped mosquito netting over your sleeping place.
Provide the family with the gift of a good and bite-free slumber.
Windows and doors can and should be boarded with screens.
If open areas in your home/room do not come with them, easily-installable screens are now available to avoid the hassle of a complete “renovation.”
An insect repellent called permethrin should be sprayed over clothing, mosquito netting, tents, sleeping bags, and other fabrics you have and will use.
Protection should also go on things you are wearing and sleeping in and on!
Above anything else, wear long pants and other clothing that covers your body.
Cover up and don’t let the mosquitoes get any chance to bite you.
Who should get diagnoses/treatments for malaria?
If a family member gets sick with malaria, the risks of others having it should be entertained, too. Do not risk the chance of knowing later, since the disease can cause serious health damage that can be fatal, either through multiple complications or organ failure.
Early diagnoses have better chances of better and faster recovery. Seek treatment as soon as possible if you feel you have contracted the disease. Schedule an appointment with your trusted and preferred network of highly-qualified healthcare providers.
At EASTWEST HEALTHCARE, we’re committed to removing barriers to access healthcare for all and to driving better health outcomes. Our principle of “Freedom to Choose” allows our clientele to have a diverse servicing experience that aims for a healthy horizon for Filipinos.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, August 19). CDC – Parasites – Malaria. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/malaria/index.html
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September 21). CDC – malaria – people with malaria speak – an unwanted souvenir. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/stories/unwanted_souvenir.html
3 – 5 Malaria: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15014-malaria