Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitos. The malaria parasite enters the human host when an infected Anopheles mosquito takes a blood meal. Inside the human host, the parasite undergoes a series of changes as part of its complex life-cycle. Its various stages allow plasmodia to evade the immune system, infect the liver and red blood cells, and finally develop into a form that is able to infect a mosquito again when it bites an infected person. Typically, malaria produces fever, headache, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms. The situation has become even more complex over the last few years with the increase in resistance to the drugs normally used to combat the parasite that causes the disease.
Approximately 40% of the world's population, mostly those living in the world's poorest countries, is at risk of malaria. Ninety percent of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa south of the Sahara, mostly among young children. The risk of getting malaria depends on your age, history of exposure to malaria, and pregnancy status. Most adults who have lived in areas where malaria is present have developed partial immunity to malaria because of previous infections and therefore almost never develop severe disease. Pregnant women are more likely to get severe malaria than nonpregnant women because the immune system is suppressed during pregnancy.
Sources: World Health Organization, Healthwise, Incorporated, University of Leicester
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