What is malaria

mosquito-borne diseases

A mosquito’s bite transmits a parasite into a person’s blood, where it infects red blood cells. Periodically, the red blood cells rupture, causing fever, chills, and organ damage.

Malaria is most common in parts of Africa, but can also be found in other tropical and subtropical areas around the world; those traveling to affected areas should take preventive measures.

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Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors.” There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat.
  • P. falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite on the African continent. It is responsible for most malaria-related deaths globally.
  • P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.ub

Key facts

Child with malaria in Ethiopia (Wikipedia)
  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries, an increase of 5 million cases over 2015.
  • Malaria deaths reached 445 000 in 2016, a similar number (446 000) to 2015.
  • The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2016, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths.
  • Total funding for malaria control and elimination reached an estimated US$ 2.7 billion in 2016. Contributions from governments of endemic countries amounted to US$ 800 million, representing 31% of funding.


Malaria is an acute febrile illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache, and chills– may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparummalaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ involvement is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.

Who is at risk?

The Ministry of Health has blamed the rising rate of malaria incidences in the country on substandard bed nets.

In 2016, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the WHO regions of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas are also at risk. In 2016, 91 countries and areas had ongoing malaria transmission.

Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers. National malaria control programmes need to take special measures to protect these population groups from malaria infection, taking into consideration their specific circumstances





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