Malaria: Frequently asked questions
What is malaria?
Malaria is a parasite infection spread by mosquitoes. There are 4 types of malaria parasite known to infect humans (Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae). Of these plasmodium falciparum is the one most likely to cause serious illness and and most deaths. Most cases of malaria seen in the UK occur in travelers and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
How is malaria transmitted?
Malaria is spread by the female anopheles mosquito. Mosquitoes pick up malaria by feeding on a person who has the malaria parasite in their blood and pass it on by biting other people. The parasite is passed on in the saliva of the mosquito.
Is malaria a contagious disease?
Malaria is not spread directly from person to person like for example. You can not get malaria from simply being in close contact with a person who is infected.
Who is at risk for malaria?
Anyone can get malaria. Most cases occur when malaria is transmitted between people living in regions where malaria is endemic. People traveling in these areas can become infected. In rare cases blood transfusion can spread malaria and it can be passed from a mother to baby during child birth (rare).
Who is most at risk of getting very sick and dying from malaria?
Children, pregnant women and travelers who have never been exposed to malaria before are those most likely to become very sick and are the most likely to die form it. Most deaths occur in children under 5 who living in sub-Sahran Africa.
I was born in a country where malaria is present and had malaria as a child, and then moved to the UK many years ago. Do I need to worry about getting malaria when I return home to visit my friends and relatives?
People living in malaria areas build up partial immunity through repeated exposure. These people usually become less severely unwell with malaria than people who have had no previous exposure. This partial immunity fades over years.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
Malaria usually starts with fever, headache, chills, shaking aching muscles. Untreated, these symptoms usually progress. Nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, back ache and even collapse, seizure, confusion and death can follow. Malaria can also cause jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), anaemia and darkening of the urine.
How soon will a person feel sick after being bitten by an infected mosquito?
Symptoms usually start 10 days to 4 weeks after infection although they can start as early as 7 days or as late as a year following infection. Some types of malaria can remain dormant in the liver for up to 4 years causing symptoms when the parasite moves back from the liver to the blood.
Where to buy malaria tablets
Malaria tablets can be bought online or on the high street from registered pharmacists. In the UK a prescription is required for malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), lariam (mefloquine), and doxycycline. All antimalarials can be obtained on prescription at Dr Fox malaria consultations.