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Malaria: what it is, how it is contracted, how it is treated

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Malaria: what it is, how it is contracted, how it is treated

Malaria: A Dangerous and Widespread Disease

Malaria is a parasitic disease that is widespread mainly in tropical and subtropical areas, caused by protozoa of the Plasmodium genus. These parasites are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus. The disease represents a global health problem, with approximately 228 million cases estimated in 2020 and 405,000 deaths, mainly in Africa. The severity of malaria depends on various factors, including the species of Plasmodium, the amount of parasites in the blood, and the patient’s health condition. If not treated promptly, it can have fatal consequences, especially in the case of infection with Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal species.

The symptoms of malaria include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, profuse sweating, anemia, and intense tiredness. Symptoms of malaria may vary depending on the severity of the infection and the species of Plasmodium.

Although once widespread in many areas of the world, today malaria is concentrated mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Africa represents the epicenter of the disease, with the majority of cases and deaths. However, thanks to fight and control programs promoted by the WHO and various international organizations, the spread of the disease has been significantly reduced in recent years. In non-endemic areas with a temperate climate, such as Italy, usually only imported cases occur; the possibility of local transmission is considered extremely low.

The fight against malaria uses various weapons: early diagnosis, which is essential for timely treatment, and pharmacological therapy, which varies depending on the species of Plasmodium and the severity of the infection. In addition to drugs, prevention plays a key role in the fight against malaria, including the use of mosquito nets and antimalarial prophylaxis.

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A new ally in the fight against malaria is the RTS,S/AS01, the first malaria vaccine approved by WHO, which offers partial protection against P. falciparum malaria in children. Although its effectiveness is not complete, it represents an important step forward in the fight to eradicate this disease. Its use, in combination with other prevention and treatment measures, can help significantly reduce malaria incidence and mortality.

Malaria continues to be a significant global health problem, especially in Africa and other tropical and sub-tropical regions. However, with continued efforts in prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment, there is hope for reducing the impact of this deadly disease on communities around the world.

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