Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die.
In 2018 an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 405,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region. About 2,000 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 countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Diagnosis of malaria
Rapid and accurate diagnosis of malaria is integral to the appropriate treatment of affected individuals and in preventing the further spread of infection in the community. As a national reference center for malaria diagnosis, CDC provides diagnostic and technical assistance on malaria diagnosis. CDC provides reference microscopic diagnosis and other specialized tests such as serology, PCR, and drug-resistance testing.
Treatment of malaria
Treatment of malaria depends on many factors including disease severity, the species of malaria parasite causing the infection, and the part of the world in which the infection was acquired. The latter two characteristics help determine the probability that the organism is resistant to certain antimalarial drugs. Additional factors such as age, weight, and pregnancy status may limit the available options for malaria treatment.
Healthcare providers should always obtain a travel history from febrile patients. Fever in a person who has recently traveled in a malaria-endemic area should always be immediately evaluated using the appropriate diagnostic tests for malaria.
Malaria occurs mostly in poor tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In many of the countries affected by malaria, it is a leading cause of illness and death. In areas with high transmission, the most vulnerable groups are young children, who have not developed immunity to malaria yet, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been decreased by pregnancy. The costs of malaria – to individuals, families, communities, nations – are enormous.
Geography of Malaria affected
Malaria occurs mostly in poor, tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Africa is the most affected due to a combination of factors:
- A very efficient mosquito (Anopheles gambiae complex) is responsible for high transmission.
- The predominant parasite species is Plasmodium falciparum , which is the species that is most likely to cause severe malaria and death.
- Local weather conditions often allow transmission to occur year round.
- Scarce resources and socio-economic instability have hindered efficient malaria control activities.
- In other areas of the world, malaria is a less prominent cause of deaths, but can cause substantial disease and incapacitation, especially in some countries in South America and South Asia.
(Source – CDC)