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Malaria: Introduction

Malaria is a potentially serious disease caused by parasites called plasmodia. Plasmodia parasites are transmitted between humans by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, which can carry the parasites. An Anopheles mosquito can only infect a person with malaria if it has already bitten a person with malaria.

After the malaria plasmodia parasites enter the human bloodstream, they travel to the liver and reproduce quickly. In most forms of malaria, some parasites stay in the liver to multiple while others flow into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, the malaria parasites destroy the red blood cells, which carry vital oxygen to the tissues of the body. The malaria plasmodia parasites that stayed in the liver also continue to reproduce and send more parasites into the blood.

This process of malaria results in repeated attacks of symptoms each time the malaria parasites are released into the blood. Symptoms first appear in about eight to 30 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms are flu-like and can include fever, fatigue, fever, nausea and chills.

Malaria can result in anemia (a decreased number or red blood cells). The remains of the destroyed red blood cells clump together and cause blockages in the blood vessels. This can result in brain damage or kidney damage, which is potentially fatal. A particularly serious, potentially life-threatening, form of malaria is called falciparum malaria. For more information on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of malaria.

Attacks of malaria can occur for years if it is not diagnosed and treated. Eventually, the body's immune system may develop a defense against malaria attacks, and they may become less severe in some people. If a person can survive a bout of falciparum malaria, repeat attacks do not recur.

Malaria is most common and a serious public health threat in warm in tropical and subtropical countries. About half of the world's population lives in at-risk areas of the world. Malaria is extremely rare in the U.S., although the Anopheles mosquito is found in the western and southeastern part of the country. Mosquito control programs have basically wiped-out the disease in the U.S. Most cases in the U.S. occur in people who have travelled outside the country to high-risk areas.

Making a diagnosis of malaria begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms and travel history, and completing a physical examination. Recent travel to sub-tropical or tropical areas of the world is an important clue that may increase the suspicion of a diagnosis of malaria.

Diagnostic testing includes blood tests that check for the plasmodia parasites that cause malaria. A series of tests may need to be done to definitely rule-out or diagnose malaria. A complete blood count (CBC) can detect anemia (low red blood cell count), which can occur with malaria.

A diagnosis of malaria can easily be missed or delayed in areas of the world, such as the U.S., where it is rare. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of malaria.

Treatment of malaria includes preventing the disease when travelling to high risk areas of the world with antimalarial drugs. Antimalarial drugs are also used in the treatment of malaria. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of malaria. ...more »

Malaria: A parasitic disease transmitted through mosquito bites. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Malaria is available below.

Malaria: Symptoms

The symptoms of malaria can resemble symptoms of influenza. They include fever, chills, nausea, headache, and fatigue.

The signs and symptoms of malaria are related to the reproduction of the malaria parasites in the liver and the spread of them into the bloodstream. In the blood, the plasmodia parasites of malaria destroy the red blood cells, which carry vital oxygen to the ...more symptoms »

Malaria: Treatments

The first step in treating malaria is prevention. Prevention measures include controlling mosquito populations in warm sub-tropical and tropical areas of the world. This includes draining areas and objects that can hold standing water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, such as old tires, puddles, and bird baths. Wearing insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or oil ...more treatments »

Malaria: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of malaria can easily be missed or delayed in temperate or Northern areas of the world, such as the U.S., where it is extremely rare. In addition, the symptoms of malaria, such as fever, nausea and fatigue closely mimic symptoms of more common infectious diseases, such as influenza and hepatitis. Malaria may also resemble other infectious ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Malaria

Treatments for Malaria

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Malaria:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Malaria?

Malaria: Related Patient Stories

Malaria: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Malaria.

Alternative Treatments for Malaria

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Malaria may include:

  • Oral rehydration
  • Malaria officinalis homeopathic prevention
  • Cinchona homeopathic prevention, treatment and relapse
  • Arsenicum album homeopathic prevention and treatment
  • Pulsatilla homeopathic remedy
  • more treatments »

Types of Malaria

Diagnostic Tests for Malaria

Test for Malaria in your own home

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Malaria: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Malaria:

Causes of Malaria

Read more about causes of Malaria.

More information about causes of Malaria:

Disease Topics Related To Malaria

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Malaria:

Misdiagnosis and Malaria

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Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or more »

Malaria: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Latest Treatments for Malaria

Malaria: Animations

Prognosis for Malaria

Research about Malaria

Visit our research pages for current research about Malaria treatments.

Clinical Trials for Malaria

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Malaria include:

Prevention of Malaria

Prevention information for Malaria has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Malaria.

Statistics for Malaria

Malaria: Broader Related Topics

Malaria Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Malaria, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Definitions of Malaria:

Protozoan disease caused in humans by four species of the genus Plasmodium (P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae) and transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito of the genus Anopheles; malaria is endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Oceania, and certain Caribbean islands; characterized by extreme exhaustion associated with paroxysms of high fever, sweating, shaking chills, and anemia; malaria in animals is caused by other species of plasmodia. - (Source - Diseases Database)

An infective disease caused by sporozoan parasites that are transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito; marked by paroxysms of chills and fever - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Malaria is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Malaria, or a subtype of Malaria, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Malaria as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet


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