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What is Malaria?

Malaria is an infection caused by a protozoa parasite called Plasmodium.  There are four common types, P. vivax, P. falciparum, P. ovalae and P. malariae.

How is Malaria transmitted?

Malaria is transmitted to humans from the bite of an anopheles Mosquito.  The parasite has a life cycle in the mosquito and it is passed into the blood of humans after a mosquito bite.

What symptoms does Malaria cause?

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness.

Malaria symptoms may include
  • fever
  • chills
  • sweats
  • headache
  • body aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
Malaria symptoms will occur at least 7 to 9 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Fever in the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria; however, you should see a doctor right away if you develop a fever during your trip.

Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice. Malaria infections with Plasmodium falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, coma, and death.

Malaria can remain latent in the body despite using protective measures, and travelers may still develop malaria up to a year after returning from a malarious area. You should see a doctor immediately if you develop a fever anytime during the year following your return and tell the physician of your travel.

How common is Malaria around the world?

Malaria is endemic in many countries.  There are millions of infections each year around the world.  It is more common in tropical countries.  Each country and each region or city within a country will have different rates of Malaria.

How can we protect from infection with Malaria?

There are two general ways of protecting from Malaria
  • Protection from being bitten by a mosquito
  • Medication prophylaxis to prevent infection after a bite

How do I protect myself from being bitten by a mosquito?

  • Always wear insect repellent (strong one) and reapply during the day and night
  • Use an insect spray in your sleeping area
  • Use a bed net to protect yourself during sleep
  • Wear long sleeved clothing to cover your skin especially around sunrise, sunset and the evenings
  • Get rid of stagnant water in which mosquitoes breed
  • Use mosquito coils to keep them away from living areas
  • Impregnate clothing and mosquito nets with permethrin

What medications can we take to prevent infection?

Malaria prophylaxis is common when traveling to malaria areas.

The choice of medication will depend on the destination and the advice regarding drug resistance in those areas.

Malarone is a tablet taken once a day.  It is very well tolerated with few side effects.  It should be started 1-2 before entering an area and be continued for 7 days after leaving the area.  It is best absorbed with food.  It is the most expensive treatment but usually the best tolerated.

Mefloquine is a tablet taken once per week.  It must be started 2-3 weeks before leaving and continued for 2-4 weeks after leaving the area.  Side effects include nausea, vomitting, diarrhoea, abdo pain, headache and dizziness.  It can cause a range of rare side effects which can include psychiatric effects.

Doxycycline is a tablet taken once a day.  It is started 2 days before entering and taken for 2-4 weeks after leaving an area.  It should not be taken by a pregnant woman.  Side effects include easy sunburn, gastritis,nausea, heart burn.  This option is generally quite cheap.  Follow up treatment with primaquine to eradicate the liver stage of Malaria may be required.
All of the information contained in this leaflet is designed to provide basic level education. It does not represent medical advice and no action should be taken as a result of the information contained within without discussing it with a doctor. Medical information changes rapidly and this content may be out of date and therefore incorrect. The content has been written with the intention of helping those who read it and specific medical terminology, complex and detailed information has been purposefully omitted. The author holds no responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this information. The content of this leaflet remains the property of Two One Five Melbourne Street Medical Practice and any usage, apart from personal use, must receive the authority of the owner.
©2016 Two One Five Melbourne Street Medical Practice