Malaria is a disease passed through the blood. It is typically passed to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, but can also be passed from mother to unborn child or during a blood transfusion from an infected donor.
Malaria is caused by a specific type of parasite.
Most often, a mosquito picks up the parasite when it bites someone with malaria. The mosquito can pass the parasite to a new person when it bites them.
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Living in or traveling to hot, humid climates where Anopheles mosquitoes are common is the most common risk factor for malaria. Africa, Asia, and Latin America all have areas where malaria is common.
Your chance of getting malaria increases dramatically if prevention steps are not taken.
There are no symptoms in the early stage of infection.
Symptoms usually begin within 10 days to 4 weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include:
Seek medical care right away if you suspect malaria or if you have traveled to an area of the world where malaria occurs.
You will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and travel history. A physical exam will be done. Malaria will be diagnosed with blood tests. The blood test will also help identify the specific type of parasite causing your infection.
Prescription drugs are used to treat malaria by killing the parasites. The choice of an antimalarial agent depends on:
Medications will also be given to reduce fever, which may shorten the infection time.
To reduce your chance of getting malaria when in a high-risk area:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Public Health Agency of Canada
Malaria: topic home. Center for Disease Control website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/malaria. Updated May 6, 2015. Accessed June 2, 2015.
Malaria and travelers. Center for Disease Control website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/index.html. Updated February 3, 2015. Accessed June 2, 2015.
Malaria. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114919/Malaria. Updated August 14, 2016. Accessed June 2, 2015.
8/31/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114919/Malaria: Enayati A, Hemingway J, Garner P. Electronic mosquito repellents for preventing mosquito bites and malaria infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(2):CD005434.
8/20/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114919/Malaria: Purssell E, While AE. Does the use of antipyretics in children who have acute infections prolong febrile illness? A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pediatr. 2013;163(3):822-8273.
10/1/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114919/Malaria: Reimer LJ, Thomsen EK, Tisch Dj, et al. Insecticidal bed nets and filariasis transmission in Papua New Guinea. N Eng J Med. 2013;369(8):745-753.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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