Definition

Malaria is a blood infection.

Causes

A parasite causes the disease. An infected mosquito passes the parasite to you through a bite on your skin. It settles in the liver and multiplies. Over time, it moves into red bloods, where it can kill them or spread to other red blood cells.

Malaria Cycle
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Risk Factors

Your risk may be higher if you live in or travel to tropical climates. This includes Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Preventive steps can help lower the risk.

Symptoms

Symptoms appear 10 days to 4 weeks after a mosquito bite. Medicines to prevent malaria can delay symptoms.

  • Fevers—as high as 106° F (41.1° C)
  • Chills and sweats
  • Muscles aches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Yellow coloring of the eyes and skin— jaundice
  • Dark or discolored urine

If you traveled to places where malaria is common and you feel sick, call your doctor right away.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. You will also have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests

Treatment

Medicines will kill the parasite. The type of medicine depends on:

  • The type of parasite
  • Stage of infection
  • Where you traveled
  • Medicines you took to prevent malaria

Prevention

If you travel to areas where malaria is common:

  • Talk to your doctor about preventive steps before you travel.
  • Take any medicine to prevent malaria as advised.
  • Stay in places with screens or air conditioning.
  • Cover your skin with long clothes, socks, and shoes.
  • Use bug sprays that contain DEET.
  • Use mosquito netting treated with bug spray.
  • Keep in mind mosquitoes are more active during early morning, late afternoon, and early evening.
  • Tip out standing water in buckets, flower pots, or other containers. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

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