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Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted person-to-person by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes are present in the tropics and subtropics in almost all countries.
Malaria is the most deadly of all tropical parasitic diseases. After the parasites enter the body by a mosquito bite, they disappear from the circulating blood within an hour and gather in the liver. After several days, infected red blood cells (RBCs) emerge from the liver and infect other RBCs.
Four species of Plasmodium (a single-celled parasite) can infect humans and cause illness:
Generally, only falciparum malaria is potentially life-threatening. Patients with severe falciparum malaria may develop liver and kidney failure, convulsions, and coma. Infections with P. vivax and P. ovale may cause less serious illness, but the parasites can remain dormant in the liver for many months, causing a reappearance of symptoms months or even years later.
The risk of acquiring malaria depends on:
Early stages of malaria may be similar to the flu. The following are the most common symptoms of malaria. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of malaria usually appear ten to 16 days after the infectious mosquito bite and may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for malaria may include blood work to rule out other possible infections.
Malaria can often be prevented by the use of antimalarial drugs and use of protection measures against mosquito bites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several medications recommended for prevention of malaria in travelers. Determining which medication is best depends upon several factors, such as your medical history and the amount of time before your scheduled departure. Strict adherence to the recommended doses and schedules of the antimalarial drug selected is necessary for effective protection.
To avoid mosquito bites, the CDC recommends the following:
Note: According to the CDC, vitamin B and ultrasound devices do not prevent mosquito bites.
Specific treatment for malaria will be determined by your physician based on: