In Bili, a significant portion of our work is with children under the age of five, with over 75 per cent of those being treated for malaria. I thought I knew a bit about malaria, but knowing the basics did not prepare me for the extreme cases that I see here every day.
Malaria is a disease caused by the ‘Plasmodium’ parasite, of which there are five subtypes. ‘Plasmodium falciparum’ is the most severe, and that’s the one that we have here. Transmitted by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, the parasite invades the red blood cells and gets into the liver cells.
Uncomplicated malaria is characterised by fever and flu-like symptoms including body aches, nausea/vomiting, chills and sweats. Severe malaria is when it gets scary, and that’s where there seems to be the biggest discrepancy between the books and reality. Severe malaria is essentially when there is organ failure as a result of the malaria.