Malaria is a serious disease that causes a high fever and chills. You can get it from a bite by an infected mosquito.
Malaria is caused by a bite from a mosquito infected with parasites. In very rare cases, people can get malaria if they come into contact with infected blood. You cannot get malaria just by being near a person who has the disease.
You may be able to prevent malaria by taking medicine before, during, and after travel to an area where malaria is present.
A bite from a parasite-infected mosquito causes malaria. There are five species of parasites that infect people.
Infection with P. falciparum
Infection with P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale, or P. knowlesi
Malaria is spread when an infected mosquito bites a person. This is the only type of mosquito that can spread malaria. The mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected person and drawing blood that contains the parasite. When that mosquito bites another person, that person becomes infected.
Malaria can begin with flu-like symptoms. Symptoms can appear in 7 days. The incubation period may be longer if you are taking medicine to prevent infection or because you have some immunity due to previous infections.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms may appear in cycles. The time between episodes of fever and other symptoms varies with the specific parasite you are infected with.
Other common symptoms of malaria include:
- Dry cough.
- Muscle or back pain or both.
- Enlarged spleen.
Medicine can prevent malaria and is needed to treat the disease. Several things influence the choice of medicine, including:
- The specific parasite causing the infection.
- How bad the infection is.
- Your condition (such as age, pregnancy, allergies, or health problems).
- Medicine resistance of the parasite found in the geographic area where you were infected.
Prevention of malaria involves protecting yourself against mosquito bites and taking antimalarial medicines.
To prevent mosquito bites, follow these guidelines:
- Stay inside when it is dark outside.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Use insect repellent.
- Use bed nets (mosquito netting) sprayed with or soaked in an insecticide
- Use flying-insect spray indoors around sleeping areas.
- Avoid areas where malaria and mosquitoes are present
- Other steps that may be helpful in reducing the risk of malaria include using air conditioning and electric fans
If you plan to travel in remote areas where malaria is present, it is very important to take preventive medicines and to follow the correct schedule for taking them.