dictionary entry explaining malaria

Understanding Malaria

Malaria is a disease that causes approximately 1 million deaths each year. It is primarily found in tropical regions, such as Africa and southern Asia. You should begin preventative measures as soon as possible if you're planning on visiting an area that is known to have malaria. The following information describes causes, symptoms, treatment options, and ways to prevent malaria.


Malaria is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. There are several particular species of parasites that can infect people. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person who already has malaria. The next person the mosquito bites may also become infected with the disease.

Symptoms for the disease usually start to show up within a few weeks of being bitten by a mosquito that's infected, but it can take longer. After traveling to the liver, the parasites may remain dormant for as long as a year. You would begin having symptoms once the parasites develop and enter the red blood cells. Malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, sharing needles, and from a mother to an unborn child.


Some of the primary symptoms of malaria include high fever, headache, muscle pain, and chills. Symptoms are often similar to the flu. Malaria can be classified as uncomplicated or severe, depending upon what types of symptoms are present. It is considered severe if you have symptoms such as an inability to eat, inability to walk, decreased consciousness, extremely low blood pressure, and breathing problems. Severe malaria could also include kidney failure, circulatory shock, and more than one convulsion.


Chloroquine is commonly used to treat malaria. Other medications that are sometimes used include quinine sulfate, mefloquine, and hydroxychloroquine. Malaria treatment is dependent upon the severity of the disease. With proper treatment, most people suffering from malaria can be expected to make a full recovery. Severe malaria, unfortunately, can cause death within a few days or less. Malaria parasites that are in the liver may be more difficult to treat. Some types of malaria are resistant to medications.


The best way to prevent malaria is to control the mosquito population and reduce mosquito bites. If you're planning to travel to an area known to have malaria, make sure to take precautions that include sleeping under a net, covering your skin from dusk to dawn, and spraying skin and clothes with mosquito repellant.

There currently isn't a vaccine for malaria. Usually the drugs given to treat the disease are the same ones used as prevention. A person who is planning on traveling to a region that is known to have malaria should plan to take medication before and during a trip. Sometimes it will need to be taken after the trip as well. A physician will need to prescribe medication that will work best on the kind of malaria that is prevalent in the region that a traveler will be visiting.

Last Updated: February 10, 2016