- Malaria is caused by parasites from the genus Plasmodium, which are spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Statistics show that there are 250 million to 500 million cases of malaria each year in the world, causing up to 1 million deaths. Deaths are especially common in children.
- Approximately 1,500 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, largely as a result of international travel or immigration.
- The hallmark of
malaria is fever. Initially, symptoms may mimic the flu. Fever may be
accompanied by shaking chills and muscle aches. Anemia is common.
- Severe cases
may cause organ failure or death.
- Malaria is diagnosed from a blood smear when
the parasite is seen under the microscope. Other tests are available, but
microscopy remains the cornerstone of diagnosis. Malaria is treated with
specific medications. Oral medications are usually used, except in severe cases.
- Most patients recover completely after being treated. However, infection with
P. vivax or P. ovale may be associated with organisms that hide in the liver for
months or years, resisting treatment. Special medications are used to help
eradicate these organisms.
- People who travel to areas with malaria should
visit their physician prior to departure. The risk of malaria may be reduced by
taking medications and using mosquito precautions.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2014
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