Endemic malaria: what is it?

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Malaria remains present in regions with abundant disease vectors, mostly in developing nations with limited public health infrastructure. Control measures include limiting mosquito populations, administering prophylaxis and treatment, and consistent policies across borders.

Endemic malaria is malaria that remains naturally and consistently present in a region because there are abundant vectors for the disease, ensuring that it will continue to be transmitted throughout society. Malaria-endemic countries are mostly found in the tropics and tend to be developing nations with limited public health infrastructure to combat the disease. The fight against malaria around the world has included a focus on tackling endemic malaria with the aim of eradicating it from these regions to eliminate natural reservoirs of the disease.

Malaria becomes endemic in several regions. This pest requires mosquitoes of specific species as part of its life cycle and therefore cannot become endemic in regions where these species are not supported. The tropics tend to be very hospitable to mosquitoes due to the heat and an abundance of standing water. In regions where mosquito control is limited, it can be difficult to prevent infected insects from biting humans and transmitting the infection.

If the human population uses malaria prophylaxis, these bites are not a problem, as the parasites cannot survive in their bodies. Inconsistent or non-existent use of prophylaxis, however, creates an avenue for malaria infections to arise and infected patients will increase the life cycle of the parasite, with mosquitoes feeding on them and collecting infected blood, thus perpetuating the disease . People also travel, carrying the parasite with them as they go and creating an endless supply of new vectors.

Efforts to control endemic malaria include attempts to limit mosquito populations and contact between insects and humans, such as the use of pesticides, shielding homes and beds to prevent insects from entering, and administering compounds known to cause infertility to humans in mosquitoes, thus preventing the insects from breeding. The provision of affordable malaria prophylaxis and treatment is another measure to address this problem. Travelers to malaria-endemic regions are usually advised to take prophylactic medications so they don’t bring the virus home.

In nations where the public health infrastructure is poor and poorly supported, endemic malaria is difficult to fight. There may be regions where people have the virus under control, but in others it could be widespread and very common. As people travel between regions, they bring the parasite back and forth, creating new flare-ups of the disease. Consistent and even malaria control policies also need to cross borders, as a rigorous program in one nation does little if the country next door has an ineffective malaria control program in place.

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