|Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines. Key interventions to control malaria include: prompt andeffective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies; use of insecticidal nets by people at risk; and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes.
As the malaria parasites enter the blood stream they infect and destroy red blood cells. Destruction of these essential cells leads to fever and flu-like symptoms, such as chills, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These initial symptoms are non-specific: in other words, they are self-reported symptoms that do not indicate a specific disease process.
Uncomplicated malaria (can be caused by all strains of Plasmodium)
Malaria is considered uncomplicated when symptoms are present but there are no clinical or laboratory signs to indicate severity or vital organ dysfunction.2 The symptoms of uncomplicated malaria are non-specific and include fever.
Severe malaria (only caused by P. falciparum)
Infection with P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, can quickly progress to severe malaria. The main symptoms of severe malaria include: coma, severe breathing difficulties, low blood sugar, and low blood haemoglobin (severe anaemia). It is diagnosed on the basis of the presence P. falciparum parasites and one of the above symptoms with no other obvious cause. Children are particularly vulnerable since they have little or no immunity to the parasite. If untreated, severe malaria can lead to death.
Cerebral malaria (only caused by P. falciparum)
Malaria is classified as cerebral when it manifests with cerebral symptoms, such as coma.