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.
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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.
What causes malaria?
Malaria can occur if a mosquito infected with the Plasmodium parasite bites you. There are four kinds of malaria parasites that can infect humans: Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. falciparum.
P. falciparum causes a more severe form of the disease and those who contract this form of malaria have a higher risk of death. 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
Use of shared needles or syringes
What are the symptoms of malaria?
The symptoms of malaria typically develop within 10 days to 4 weeks following the infection. In some cases, 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 that can range from moderate to severe
How is malaria diagnosed?
Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria. During your appointment, your doctor will review your health history, including any recent travel to tropical climates. A physical exam will also be performed.
Malaria may cause a number of life-threatening complications. Such as;
Swelling of the blood vessels of the brain, or cerebral malaria
An accumulation of fluid in the lungs that causes breathing problems, or pulmonary edema
Organ failure of the kidneys, liver, or spleen
Anemia due to the destruction of red blood cells
Low blood sugar
What’s the long-term outlook for people with malaria?
People with malaria who receive treatment typically have a good long-term outlook. If complications arise as a result of malaria, the outlook may not be as good. Cerebral malaria, which causes swelling of the blood vessels of the brain, can result in brain damage.
The long-term outlook for patients with drug-resistant parasites may also be poor. In these patients, malaria may recur. This may cause other complications.