Many travelers to tropical countries are concerned about the possibility of contracting malaria, a potentially fatal infection transmitted by the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. While malaria is most common in Africa, the disease occurs in over 100 countries.
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- More than 210 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide in 2015.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 438,000 people died of malaria in 2015; the vast majority are young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- This is a significant decrease in deaths since 2000 due to increased prevention and control measures.
- About 1,500-2,000 people are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, usually in travelers returning from endemic areas.
- Malaria was a serious public-health threat in the U.S. until it was eliminated during the 1920s-1940s. Much of the early work done by the CDC focused on controlling and eliminating malaria in the U.S.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a serious, sometimes fatal, disease spread by mosquitoes and caused by a parasite. Malaria was a significant health risk in the U.S. until it was eliminated by multiple programs in the late 1940s. The illness presents with flu-like symptoms that include high fever and chills.
There are three necessary aspects to the malaria life cycle:
- The Anopheles mosquito carries the parasite and is where the parasite starts its life cycle.
- The parasite (Plasmodium) has multiple subspecies, each causing a different severity of symptoms and responding to different treatments.
- The parasite first travels to a human's liver to grow and multiply. It then travels in the bloodstream and infects and destroys red blood cells.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016