What is Malaria
Malaria is a life-threatening disease. It’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Infected mosquitoes carry the Plasmodium parasite. When this mosquito bites you, the parasite is released into your bloodstream.
Once the parasites are inside your body, they travel to the liver, where they mature. After several days, the mature parasites enter the bloodstream and begin to infect red blood cells. Within 48 to 72 hours, the parasites inside the red blood cells multiply, causing the infected cells to burst open.
The parasites continue to infect red blood cells, resulting in symptoms that occur in cycles that last two to three days at a time.
Malaria is typically found in tropical and subtropical climates where the parasites can live. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria.
What Causes Malaria?
Malaria can occur if a mosquito infected with the Plasmodium parasite bites you. An infected mother can also pass the disease to her baby at birth. This is known as congenital malaria. Malaria is transmitted by blood, so it can also be transmitted through:
- an organ transplant
- a transfusion
- use of shared needles or syringes
How Is Malaria Treated?
Malaria is a life-threatening condition. Treatment for the disease is typically provided in a hospital. Your doctor will prescribe medications based on the type of parasite that you have. In some instances, the medication prescribed will not clear you of the infection. Parasites that are resistant to drugs have been reported. These parasites make many drugs ineffective. If this occurs, your doctor may need to use more than one medication or change medications altogether to treat your condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Malaria?
The symptoms of malaria typically develop within 10 days to four weeks following the infection. In some people, symptoms may not develop for several months. Some malarial parasites can enter the body but will be dormant for long periods of time. Common symptoms of malaria include:
- shaking chills moderate to severe
- high fever
- profuse sweating
- muscle pain
- bloody stools