Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

How Does One Get Malaria?

Malaria is a serious infectious disease that is caused by a parasite Plasmodium that infects RBC cells. The parasite is transmitted by a female mosquito of Anopheles species through its saliva during the mosquito bite. The symptoms of malaria are high fever, headache, shaking chills, sweating, and flu-like symptoms. Malaria can reoccur despite successful treatment as our body cannot develop immunity against malaria. There is no vaccine available for malaria yet.

How Does One Get Malaria?

How Does Malaria Spread?

Malaria is not a contagious disease. It does not possess any of the properties of contagious disease. It cannot spread from one person to another through contact, kissing or sharing objects. It cannot be spread by sexual activities or sexual contact. It is indeed an infectious disease, but you cannot get malaria by casual contact with the infected person.

Malaria is transmitted when infected Anopheles mosquito that carries the malarial parasite Plasmodium bites you. The mosquito gets the infected parasite when it bites the person who already has malarial parasite through human blood. There are four known species of Plasmodium that can cause malaria. These are Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium falciparum. These parasites are passed into mosquito from a malarial patient through human blood and it gets transmitted to another person through the saliva during a mosquito bite. The parasite goes into liver and multiplies and grows in the liver, can also remain in the dormant stage in the liver for years. Then, they enter the human blood and invade RBCs and cause malarial infections. Plasmodium falciparum can cause the fatal type of malaria that can lead to severe infections and may lead to death if not managed properly.

Recently another species of Plasmodium is discovered that can cause malaria. This parasite is named as P. knowlesi. It infects macaques in SE Asia. This parasite can infect humans also and this type of malaria that is transmitted from animal to human is termed as zoonotic malaria.

Thus, Person to person transmission of malaria is not possible without a vector. The only chance of direct transmission is when malarial parasites get into the blood of unborn child from mother through the placenta. This type of malaria is given the name congenital malaria. It is commonly found in newborns of West Africa.

Congenital malaria can be caused by all the four species of Plasmodium. When the mother gets infected by malaria during pregnancy, both mother and unborn child develop the great risk of severe episodes of disease. Malaria-infected newborns have a higher rate of death than non-infected newborns. The symptoms usually appear two to eight weeks after the birth of the babies with congenital malaria.

Transmission of Malaria Via Blood Transfusion

Malarial infection can also happen due to the blood transfusion from an infected person to another person. Although the risk of infection is low due to the screening of blood before the transfusion. Blood collection services have established some standards to prevent the risk of collection of blood containing malarial parasite. For instance, if you are diagnosed with malaria previously, you will not be allowed to donate blood until you have been treated for malaria and you are symptom-free for at least a span of three years. You will also be not allowed to donate if you had a tour of the endemic malarial region in past three months.

Plasmodium malariae can live for a long time in the blood. So, if you were positive for Plasmodium malariae previously, you are denied to donate blood. Transmission of malaria through blood plasma is very rare. Thus, frequent travelers or people residing in malaria-affected areas are not allowed to donate blood.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: July 17, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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