Malaria is an infection from a mosquito. It can cause severe flu-like illness. Sometimes it can be fatal. It needs to be treated right away.
It is caused by a mosquito bite. The mosquito passes parasites into the blood. They infect and destroy blood cells.
Rarely, malaria is spread by a transfusion of blood with parasites.
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The risk is highest for those who live in or travel to tropical climates. Malaria is most common in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Symptoms appear 10 days to 4 weeks after a mosquito bite. Common ones may be:
Sometimes there is also:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. A physical exam will be done. Malaria is diagnosed with blood tests.
The goal is to treat the infection. Medicine will be given to kill the parasite. The type of medicine depends on:
When traveling to areas where malaria is common, risk may be lowered by:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Public Health Agency of Canada
Travel Health and Safety
Malaria. Center for Disease Control website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/malaria/index.html. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Malaria. EBSCO DynaMed s website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/malaria Accessed February 8, 2021.
Malaria and travelers for US residents. Center for Disease Control website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/index.html. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Malaria prophylaxis for travelers. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/malaria-prophylaxis-for-travelers . Accessed February 8, 2021.
Misni N, Nor ZM, et al. Repellent effect of microencapsulated essential oil in lotion formulation against mosquito bites. J Vector Borne Dis. 2017;54(1):44-53.
Mosquito avoidance. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/mosquito-avoidance. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/8/2021