What is malaria?
Malaria is a condition caused by a Plasmodium parasite, carried by infected female Anopheles mosquitos and can be transmitted to an individual through just one bite. Other mosquitos can then become infected from biting an already infected person.
Where is malaria most common?
Malaria is most common across Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East, Haiti and Dominican Republic.
Is malaria deadly?
Malaria caused over 584,000 deaths in 2013, but deadliness depends on which parasite is contracted by the individual. There are five different types of Plasmodium parasites - Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum) is the most dangerous and responsible for the majority of worldwide malaria deaths, whilst other strains (P. vivax and P. ovale) are less life-threatening but can remain dormant in the liver for years, causing symptom relapses.
What symptoms should I look out for?
Symptoms of malaria will usually present between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected (but the incubation period can last up to a year!) and include headaches, fevers that occur in 48-hour cycles (alternating between chills and sweating), diarrhoea, vomiting and muscle pains.
What can I do to prevent malaria when travelling?
If you will be travelling to a country where malaria is prevalent, you should always consider taking anti-malarial medication with you, and should always complete the course you are prescribed by your doctor to ensure effectiveness.
Other precautions to take include the use of mosquito nets, covering limbs and using a DEET-containing insect repellent to prevent bites. Seek immediate medical advice if you experience symptoms of malaria, either whilst you are travelling in a country with high rates of malaria, OR when you return home, particularly if you have bites.
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'Medical Matters' is our new collection of concise yet informative mini blogs about common medical topics. A different topic will be chosen every few weeks, and will be broken down into 'all-you-need-to-know' bites, from a GP's perspective.
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