Malaria has been one of the biggest medical concerns in India in modern memory. The disease is, to this day, still abundant across the majority of India and is responsible for a considerable number of deaths.
According to the World Malaria Report 2017, more than half of the Indian population (698 million) was at risk of malaria in 2016. The Report estimates there to be a total of 1.31 million malaria cases in the country, with around 23,990 deaths associated with the disease.
According to the estimates of a 16-member committee set up by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) the disease burden may actually be far higher. Their estimates place the total annual number of cases in India at about 9.7 million, with between 30,014 and 48,660 deaths.
The disease is present in both rural and urban environments. Anywhere with stagnant water is at risk of harbouring a breeding population of mosquitoes, which open up the potential for malaria infections in the area.
Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite. This parasite is spread via the female Anopheles mosquito. The parasite may also be transferred via transfers of infected blood via contaminated needles, though this is rare.
Symptoms typically appear within a week to eighteen days after infection, which can occur after even a single bite from a parasite-carrying mosquito. In some cases, these symptoms may not be apparent for over a year.
When symptoms do present themselves, they typically involve a high fever and headaches, accompanied by sweats and chills. They can also include vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle pains. If bites occur and these symptoms are apparent, medical attention should be sought out immediately.
Prevention and treatment
The female Anopheles mosquito tends to feed at night. This fact makes it important that mosquito nets — preferably treated with insecticide — are used when sleeping. This prevention strategy alone has been shown to reduce disease incidence considerably.
Covering the skin to minimise the chances of being bitten, or spraying anti-mosquito sprays onto the skin may also reduce the risk of contracting the disease. Anti-malarial medications are also an option for prevention where available.
Antimalarials come in many varieties, with the type used depending on the stage of malaria, as well as the type of malaria parasite. Medicines such as Chloroquine are typically used as a frontline treatment, though antimalarial resistance is becoming a more common issue. This will require other medications.