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Malaria



What is Malaria

  • Serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito, which feeds on humans.
  • Symptoms: Very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Four kinds of malaria parasites can infect humans.
  • Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
  • Malaria occurs in over 100 countries and territories. More than 40% of the world's population is at risk.
  • About 1,300 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from malaria-risk areas, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that each year 300-500 million cases of malaria occur and more than 1 million people die of malaria, especially in developing countries. Most deaths occur in young children.
  • In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.
  • Because malaria causes so much illness and death, the disease is a great drain on many national economies. Since many countries with malaria are already among the poorer nations, the disease maintains a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.

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How is Malaria Transmitted?

  • Usually, people get malaria by being bitten by an infective female Anopheles mosquito. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken on an infected person. About 1 week later, when the mosquito takes its next blood meal, these parasites mix with the mosquito's saliva and are injected into the person being bitten. Because the malaria parasite is found in red blood cells of an infected person, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood. Malaria may also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn infant before or during delivery.
  • Malaria is NOT contagious.
  • Anyone can get malaria.

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Who are the people most at risk of getting very sick and dying from malaria?

  • People who are heavily exposed to the bites of mosquitoes.
  • People who have little or no immunity to malaria, such as young children and pregnant women; or travelers coming from areas with no malaria.
  • Poor people living in rural areas who lack knowledge, money, or access to health care are at greater risk for this disease.
  • 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa south of the Sahara: most of these deaths occur in children under 5 years of age.

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What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?

  • Fever and flu-like illness, shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice and if not treated, kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.
  • Symptoms usally begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection.
  • Two kinds of malaria can occur again (relapsing malaria).

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How do I know if I have malaria for sure?

  • Take a diagnostic test where a drop of your blood is examined under the microscope for the presence of malaria parasites.

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What drug(s) should you take to prevent malaria?

  • Many effective antimalarial drugs are available. Your health care provider and you will decide on the best drug for you based on your travel plans, medical history, age, drug allergies, and pregnancy status.

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What are some forms of prevention?

  • Keeping mosquitoes from biting you, especially at night
  • Taking antimalarial drugs to kill the parasites
  • Spraying insecticides on your home's walls to kill adult mosquitoes inside
  • Sleeping under bed nets - effective if they have been treated with insecticide
  • Using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved clothing if outside at night

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Why is malaria so common in Africa?

  • Lack of resources and political instability can prevent the building of solid malaria control programs. In addition, malaria parasites are increasingly resistant to antimalarial drugs, presenting one more barrier to malaria control in that continent.

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Wasn't malaria eradicated years ago?

  • No, not in all parts of the world. Malaria has been eradicated from many developed countries with temperate climates.
    -The disease remains a major health problem in many developing countries, in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. An eradication campaign was started in the 1950s, but it failed globally because of problems including the resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides used to kill them, the resistance of malaria parasites to drugs used to treat them, and administrative issues. In addition, the eradication campaign never involved most of Africa, where malaria is the most common.

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What is CDC doing to help stop malaria in the US?

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  • Epidemiologic surveillance
  • Investigations of outbreaks of locally transmitted malaria and of other occurrences (e.g., transfusion malaria)
  • Determine country-specific risk of malaria in US residents traveling abroad
  • Advice to international travelers
  • Consultations with clinicians
  • Advice to blood collection centers
  • Diagnostic assistance
  • Investigations of new drugs to prevent and treat malaria
  • Develop and update guidelines for malaria prevention and treatment

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Learn more about the Malaria Project

Over $14,000 Raised!

(All figures updated as
of March 12, 2010

We're not stopping there! Help us in our ongoing mission to save lives from malaria. Contact us today to see what you can do to help save lives from this preventable disease.

Our Goal Progress to Help 2,000 Families

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