Malaria Summary
Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms of malaria include chills, pain, fever, and sweating. Though mild cases of malaria can be treated with oral medication, severe cases require intravenous drug treatment and fluids.
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Malaria facts

  • Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium spp. parasites that infect about 154 to 289 million people per year, resulting in approximately 660,000 deaths worldwide.
  • Symptoms of malaria include recurrent cycles (every one to three days) of fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice.
  • Anopheles mosquitoes transmit the parasites to humans when they bite. The parasites undergo a complicated life cycle in both mosquitoes and humans. The cycle repeats when the mosquitoes take a blood meal from a human who is contaminated with mature parasites.
  • Africa, Asia, and Central and South America are the areas with high numbers of malarial infections.
  • The incubation period for malaria symptoms is about one to three weeks but may be extended to eight to 10 months after the initial infected mosquito bites occur. Some people may have dormant parasites that may get reactivated years after the initial infection.
  • Malaria is diagnosed by the patient's history of recurrent symptoms and the identification of the parasites in the blood.
  • Malaria is usually treated by using combinations of two or more anti-parasite drugs. More serious infections are treated with intravenous antiparasitic drugs in the hospital.
  • Infants, children, and pregnant females, along with immune-suppressed patients are at higher risk for worse outcomes when infected with malaria parasites.
  • To reduce the chance of getting malaria, people should avoid malaria-endemic areas of the world, use mosquito repellents, cover exposed skin, and use mosquito netting covered areas when sleeping.
  • The prognosis for the majority of malaria patients is good. Most recover with no problems unless infected with P. falciparum or P. knowlesi, which may have fair to poor outcomes unless treated immediately. Infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant females, and those with suppressed immune systems frequently have a fair to poor prognosis unless effectively treated early in the infection.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/11/2013

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