Travel Health

From: Travel Health Information and Advice

Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium bacteria and is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, if left untreated the disease can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

Cause Of Malaria
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite which is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected mosquito. There are four types of parasites that cause malaria which is either malignant or benign, they are Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium falciparum the latter of which is the most severe form of the disease.

Once the parasite enters the bloodstream it travels to the liver where it multiplies before returning back into the bloodstream where it attacks and destroys red blood cells. When a mosquito next bites the parasite is then transmitted to a new host and the process begins again.

Symptoms of Malaria
Symptoms of malaria usually show after 10 days of being bitten by a mosquito however in some cases this can be as long as a few months to a year. Symptoms tend to come and go, rather than be continuous which is a warning that immediate medical attention should be sought to avoid the progression to more severe symptoms which can be fatal.

If left untreated more severe symptoms are:

Areas Affected With Malaria
The tropics and sub tropics are high risk areas.

Preventing Malaria
Seek medical advice well before travelling to areas where malaria is common, so that antimalarial medication can be taken. Preventing being bitten by mosquito will also greatly help reduce the risk of infection, taking precautions such as:

Diagnosing Malaria
Diagnosis is achieved through blood testing to ascertain the type of Plasmodium parasite causing the infection.

Treatment for Malaria
Treatment involves ascertaining which type of parasite you are infected with and then using the appropriate medication along with several follow up blood tests to confirm that the treatment is working successfully. The parasites Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium vivax can remain in the liver and will require much longer treatment for the outcome to be successful.

Most At Risk
Pregnant women are at a high risk of stillbirth or miscarriage and young children are also at risk and require very precise antimalarial medication as overdosing can prove fatal.