Braden Augustus: Health Literacy & Malaria

Malaria and the Effects Caused By Low Health Literacy

Malaria is a parasitic disease that was recognized in 1880, though there are documents from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, and even the sixth century BC that describe the symptoms of the virus(Francis EG Cox 2010). Its vector is mosquitos who suck blood containing the parasite, and the parasite affects reptiles, birds, and mammals. When it comes to Malaria, low rates of health literacy create a stigma that only people in low income countries are susceptible to it and also makes the spread of it in citizens of said countries easier due to how they are not aware of the necessary precautions that need to be taken in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

The malaria parasite is a single-cell parasite belonging to the Plasmodium genus which is transmitted by mosquitoes of the Anopheles species. This transmission through the vectors takes place while a female mosquito is in an egg production phase and uses blood feedings to give nutrients to the blood (CDC 2020). After a mosquito takes the blood from a human/animal containing the parasite, the parasite aesexually multiplies inside of the mosquito’s belly, eventually moving to the salivary glands of the mosquito. When the contaminated mosquito feeds on the blood of its next victim, the parasite moves from the salivary glands into the bloodstream of the organism being fed upon, moving to the liver and multiplying again and attacking liver and blood cells in the cell membrane. Then a mosquito bites the new foster of the virus, restarting the cycle (CDC 2020). Malaria symptoms include fever, headache, and chills which usually begin up to 15 days after being bitten. If not treated properly, organ failure and anaemia are imminent and often lack of treatment leads to death(World Health Organization 2020). Drugs to kill the parasite are available, and they can change based on age, severity of the symptoms, and whether one infected is pregnant or not. Some examples are Mefloquine and Chloroquine phosphate (Mayo Clinic 2018). Treatment is extremely important for the Malaria virus because, as previously stated, lack of treatment will lead to death. The lack of access of Health Literacy on continents such as Africa leads to the lack of citizens getting treatment, which spikes mortality rates. One specific height of malaria mortality was in 2000, when around 764,000 African citizens died from this parasitic disease, making up for 91 percent of Malaria deaths that year (Our World In Data 2020). This high mortality rate eventually led to the stigmatization of who gets malaria and where it affects. Possibly the biggest stigma about malaria is that only people in low income areas such as Africa. This is mainly due to the lack of publicized health literacy on malaria, leading people to believe that malaria is active only in more low income areas. Though most cases and deaths occur on the continent of Africa, a little bit of more in-depth research will reveal that Americans, Southeast Asian, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific people also are susceptible to the parasite and had a total of 75,700 mortalities from the parasite in the outbreak of 2000 (Our World in Data 2020). Compared to the deaths of African citizens (764,000), this number may be small, but in the big picture that is a numerous number of people who suffered due to this incorrect stigmatization of the malaria parasite. This number of citizens who had to die added to the number of people who simply did not know about the virus, its symptoms, or even its cure add up to a total of 839,700 people who died of malaria worldwide in 2000.




“CDC - Malaria - About Malaria - Biology.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 July 2020, www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/biology/index.html.

Cox, Francis E.G. “History of the Discovery of the Malaria Parasites and Their Vectors.” Parasites & Vectors, BioMed Central, 1 Jan. 2010, parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1756-3305-3-5.

“Fact Sheet about Malaria.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 14 Jan. 2020, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria.

“Malaria.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Dec. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/malaria/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351190.

Roser, Max, and Hannah Ritchie. “Malaria.” Our World in Data, University of Oxford, 12 Nov. 2013, ourworldindata.org/malaria.