Malaria comes from being bitten by a mosquito carrying the malaria organism. Risk factors include traveling in areas in which such mosquitoes are found or, rarely, being bitten by a mosquito that has previously fed on an "imported" case of malaria (such that the case can occur in an area of the world where malaria is not endemic). 

Symptoms of Malaria

Malarial attacks present over 4 to 6 hours with shaking chills, high fever, and sweating, and are often associated with fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, dry cough, muscle or joint pain, and back ache. The attacks may occur every other day or every third day.

Fever or other symptoms can develop in malaria as early as 8 days or as late as 60 days after exposure or stopping prophylaxis. For plasmodium vivax in temperate areas, the delay may be up to one year.


Diagnosis of Malaria

Methods of diagnosis are:
  • complete medical history of symptoms and travel
  • physical examination
  • blood tests, including thick and thin blood films, to identify the plasmodium species responsible for infection


Treatment of Malaria

Medical treatment should be sought immediately.The effectiveness of antimalarial drugs differs with different species of the parasite and with different stages of the parasite's life cycle. Your physician will determine the treatment plan most appropriate for your individual condition.

Drugs include chloroquine, mefloquine, primaquine, quinine, pyrimethamine-sulfadoxine (Fansidar), and doxycycline. Some plasmodium have developed resistance to certain medications, and therefore, alternative medications will be prescribed for you. 


Prevention of Malaria

No prophylactic regimen gives complete protection. Speak with your physician or local travel clinic to receive up to date information about the best malaria protection for you. Effectiveness of any given medication varies by the region of the world in which you plan to travel. Effectiveness also varies from year to year, so current information is essential.

Prevention is based on:

  • evaluating the risk of exposure to infection
  • preventing mosquito bites by using DEET mosquito repellant, bed nets, and clothing that covers most of the body
  • chemoprophylaxis (preventive medications)

                                                             Close this window