What is malaria?
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite. It is spread to humans from the bite of a mosquito infected with malaria parasites.
Malaria occurs in most of Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of North Africa; large areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia and some parts of East Asia; areas in South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, including Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic and Mexico; some small islands in the South Pacific/Oceania region and in limited areas of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
International travellers get sick every year while visiting countries where malaria is present, or after returning home.
Malaria is a reportable disease in Ontario.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
- sweats or chills
- abdominal pain
- muscle pain
- nausea and vomiting
- feeling generally unwell
In more serious cases, complications can include seizures, coma, kidney and lung failure and shock, which could lead to death.
The time it takes to show symptoms after getting infected ranges between seven days to as late as one year.
How is malaria spread?
The disease is usually spread to humans by an infected mosquito.
While rare, the parasite can also be spread from person to person by transfusion of infected blood, by shared needle use or from a mother to her unborn child.
How is malaria treated?
If identified and treated quickly, almost all cases of malaria can be completely cured. However, even short delays in the diagnosis of malaria can make treatment more difficult.
A traveller must seek medical attention as soon as possible for unexplained fever that develops during or after travel to an area where malaria is present. The traveller must tell their health care provider if they’ve been to a malaria-prone area.
How is malaria prevented?
There is currently no vaccine against malaria.
To prevent malaria, travellers should take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Learn more about insect bite prevention.
Travellers should also take anti-malarial drugs to reduce the chances of getting sick. Many effective anti-malarial drugs are available. Your health care provider can help choose the best drug for you based on your travel plans, medical history, age and other health factors.
Visit your health care provider four to six weeks before travel, as some anti-malarial medication must be started before your trip.
An anti-malarial medication lowers your risk of getting malaria; however it does not provide 100% protection. A traveller must still seek medical attention as soon as possible for unexplained fever that develops during travel and up to one year following travel to an area where malaria is present.