Did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothes?
Illustration by Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
The Lancet’s March 16, 2020 warning for malaria-prone countries such as India reminds how the deadly Ebola outbreak, which claimed 9,428 lives between 2014 and 2016 in West African countries, coincided with nearly 900% rise in the number of malaria deaths.
It emphasises on the similarity in symptoms of COVID-19 and malaria which includes fever, myalgia and fatigue, might be confused with malaria and lead to challenges in early clinical diagnosis.
Malaria causes symptoms of recurrent fever with chill and headache. The fever starts it subsides after sometimes and again reoccurs.
In severe cases it can lead to a coma or even death. Malaria is caused by parasites known as Plasmodium. It originates with the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito which carries this parasite.
Malaria has been an issue in India for eras. The facts of this disease can be found even in ancient Indian medical works like the Atharva Veda and Charaka Samhita. In the latter parts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, almost one-fourth of India’s population suffered from malaria. In India, nine Anopheline vectors are involved in transmitting malaria in diverse geo-ecological archetypes.
Approximately 2 million confirmed malaria cases and 1,000 deaths are reported every year, of which 15 million cases and 20,000 deaths are estimated by the WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office.
As many as 77% of the total malaria cases in Southeast Asia are found in India and is mostly seen in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Southern Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and in north-eastern states.
One of the biggest dangers for developing malaria is to live or to visit areas where the disease is common. In most places, poverty, lack of knowledge and little or no access to health care are some of the biggest contributors to malaria deaths worldwide.
People at the highest risk of getting infected by the disease include young children and infants, older adults, travellers coming from areas with no malaria and pregnant women with their unborn children.
Malaria can be fatal in certain cases especially when caused by the variety of parasite that’s common in tropical parts.
In most cases, malaria deaths are related to one or more serious complications like, cerebral malaria, breathing problems, organ failure, anaemia and low blood sugar.
Some varieties of the malaria parasites, which typically cause milder forms of the disease, can persist for years and cause relapses.
Here are a few steps to avoid mosquito bites:
1. Avoid stagnant water
Mosquitoes can breed in just 14 days in the smallest amount of standing water found in an old plant pot, a gutter, puddles or a pond, lake or swamp.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water but some of them have adapted themselves to lay their eggs in salt water. Stay away from any bodies of stagnant or standing water.
2. Wear light colour clothes
A lesser known fact about mosquitoes is that they are attracted to dark colours.
This is believed to be because of the contrast dark-colored clothes provide against the horizon during dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
3. Stay indoors during dusk and dawn
While mosquitoes are around all the time, they are known to have prime feeding times.
It’s better to limit exposure at these times to have lower the risk of the bites or infection.
4. Use a mosquito repellent
Whether you stay indoors or step out, use a repellent.
The most effective chemical repellents contain DEET, picaridin, PMD or IR3535 insecticide which are all considered safe to use.
The CDC says they’re safe for pregnant and nursing women, as well as babies over 2 months, although you should use lower concentrations of DEET for children.
5. Sleep with a mosquito net
Mosquito nets have fine holes that help keep the mosquitoes at bay, however you need to ensure it is put up properly and hangs over the edge of the bed and is supported properly.
When sleeping you should make sure to sleep without touching the sides as the mosquitoes can actually bite you through the net if its tight against your skin.
Keep checking your nets for holes and make sure they are patched suitably.
Mosquitoes are not strong flyers and hence keeping the air circulated with the use of a fan is a good way to avoid getting bitten and also makes it difficult for them to fly close to you.
Scientists around the world are constantly studying and experimenting to develop a safe and effective vaccine for malaria.
Nevertheless, there is still no malaria vaccine approved for human use.
Like all other preventive measures, please note that they are not hundred percent effective to protect you, however the most effective way of preventing malaria is to prevent mosquito bites.
Dr Abizer Manked is a general physician at Saifee Hospital, Mumbai. Dr Manked can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org