25 April is a day of unified commemoration of the global effort to provide effective control of malaria around the world. This year’s World Malaria Day marks a critical moment in time. The international malaria community has less than a year to meet the 2010 targets of delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria, as called for by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
New York, 19 April 2010 – With the end of the “Decade to Roll Back Malaria” in sight, 2010 is a milestone year for malaria control. There are now just over 257 days left to meet the challenge of the UN Secretary General to ensure universal coverage with all anti-malarial interventions. An update on malaria progress in Africa reveals that some countries have already begun to “count malaria out”, while others continue concerted efforts to reach the 2010 coverage targets and reduce malaria deaths by half.
The World Malaria Day 2010: Africa Update, is being launched today in New York by UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership. The second in a series of RBM Progress & Impact reports, the update highlights that progress in Africa is on an upward and accelerated trajectory – with the period from 2004 to 2009 showing a 10-fold increase in global malaria funding from external sources to nearly $1.8 billion in 2009, a five-fold increase in global production of insecticide-treated nets to 150 million, and over a 30-fold increase in ACT procurement to 160 million.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a disease that can be transmitted to people of all ages. Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium that are spread from one individual to another through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
Plasmodium is a genus of parasitic protozoa that causes malaria. The four species known to cause malaria in humans are:
Plasmodium falciparum: P. falcatum, predominant in Africa, produces the most severe symptoms and is responsible for most malaria deaths.
Plasmodium vivax: P. vivax, found mostly in tropical areas of Asia, produces less severe symptoms but can remain in the liver and cause relapses for up to three years.
Plasmodium malariae: P. malariae, found in Africa, can cause typical malaria symptoms, but on rare occasions it can remain in the bloodstream for years without producing symptoms. In these cases, is it possible to pass on the parasite to a mosquito or to another person through a blood transfusion.
Plasmodium ovale: P. ovale is found mostly in West Africa. Although infections with P. ovale are rare, relapses may occur.
In nature, malaria parasites spread by successively infecting two types of hosts: humans and female Anopheles mosquitoes. In humans, the parasites grow and multiply first in the liver cells and then in the red blood cells. Successive broods of parasites grow inside the red blod cells and destroy them, releasing daughter parasites (“merozoites”) that continue the cycle by invading other red blood cells.
Malaria infects 300 million people every year and kills up to one million people. It is present in more than 100 countries around the world. Ninety percent of malaria-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children account for 75 percent of all malaria deaths. Pregnant women and small children are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Signs And Symptoms:
Symptoms of malaria usually appear about 10-14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include: sudden, violent chills; intermittent fever; sweating; exhaustion and fatigue; headaches; seizures; and delirium.
Plasmodium falciparum infections normally take 7-14 days to show symptoms while Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale normally take 8-14 days (but in some cases can survive for some months in the human horst). Plasmodium malariae infections take 7-30 days.
Fever in the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria; however, any traveler feeling ill should seek immediate medical care
Most complications of malaria are associated with infection by Plasmodium falciparum. The extensive destruction of red blood cells that occurs during malaria infection may result in severe anemia. In addition, if parasite-filled blood cells block small blood vessels to the brain (cerebral malaria), swelling of the brain or brain damage may occur. Other complications may include: breathing problems, at times severe in the form of accumulated fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema); dehydration; liver failure; kidney failure; and rupture of the spleen.
If untreated, P. falciparum malaria can be fatal within a matter of hours after symptoms appear.
Today, the most effective treatment for malaria is artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). They have low toxicity and few side effects, and they act rapidly against the parasite. All countries in Africa that are endemic with the disease have officially changed their protocols to make ACTs as the standard treatment. However, in many of these places, ACTs are still not readily available to patients. MSF was an early proponent of ACTs, first using it in its projects in Africa in 2001, and even earlier in Southeast Asia. During 2009, MSF treated more than one million people with the disease in 30 different countries.
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