How is Malaria Affecting the First World Countries even in the 21st Century?

Although malaria is known to occur mostly in the tropical and subtropical areas that are dominated by poor economic conditions, news of the disease cropping up in the developed nations are not unheard of.


Image by Ute Frevert; false color by Margaret Shear – plosjournals

It affects about 200 million people throughout the world, and the most common incidents are reported in and around Africa, South America and south Asia. Almost 306 million people are at risk of being infected since they live in the 106 countries that fall in the high risk zones.

Malaria is caused by the protozoan parasite called Plasmodium falciparum that is transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although the drug costs are not as high at the moment for imminent treatment of the disease, the cost can be crippling for a poor family since malaria is known to most commonly occur in the lower socio-economic strata of the society.

A larger cost of the disease

Apart from the direct cost of the medication, the loss of the number of working days can cost a family its income. Cost to the government can include slacked tourism opportunities and maintenance of the sites of reported malaria incidents. From spraying bug repellents to distribution of insecticide infused bed-nets, the government has to undertake a number of tasks to protect the citizens from the disease.

What can you do after a tropical extravaganza?

ELISA tests for such tropical diseases are especially recommended for those who are travelling back to the US from a tropical vacation. This is less required if you have already taken your malaria preventive drugs and shots. But the risk gets higher as your stay gets longer in the warm, tropical lands.

Many VFRs or visiting friends and relatives from the tropics may not show any symptoms of the disease since it’s not uncommon to incur resistance towards the malaria parasite. However, they are in potential danger since they are most likely to neglect the prophylactics.

Resistance is not permanent, VFRs can lose their resistance over time, and since it is not passed down from generation to generation, their children are most likely to have no protective immunity.

ELISA is the new blood smear, but better…

Blood smear is quite an effective way to detect the presence of malaria parasite in the blood. This is still the “gold standard” test for the detection of P. falciparum parasites in the blood. The blood smear test is more of a qualitative technique that allows room for direct microscopic examination of blood samples collected from suspected victims.

However, in the first-world countries or even in third world countries that are undergoing rapid economic expansion, ELISA is gradually replacing blood smears. ELISA or enzyme linked immunosorbent assay protocols ensures that the results are highly specific. Today, ELISA procedures can detect malaria with over 99.80 percent accuracy which was impossible in case of microscopic examination of blood smears.

In conclusion, although malaria is known to occur in the warm tropics, it is not uncommon for people to bring back the disease from the tropics to the cooler states of the US. So while traveling, make sure to take your prophylactics, and after traveling be sure to get yourself tested in case you think you could have contracted the disease.

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