Skip to main content
Malaria

Malaria is a serious tropical disease spread by mosquitoes. If it isn't diagnosed and treated promptly, it can be fatal.

A single mosquito bite is all it takes for someone to become infected.

Symptoms of malaria

It's important to be aware of the symptoms of malaria if you're travelling to areas where there's a high risk of the disease. Symptoms include:

Symptoms usually appear between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected, but in some cases the symptoms may not appear for up to a year, or occasionally even longer.

Read more about the symptoms of malaria.

When to seek medical attention

Seek medical help immediately if you develop symptoms of malaria during or after a visit to an area where the disease is found.

You should still seek medical help even if it's several weeks, months or a year after you return from travelling.

If there's a possibility you have malaria, a blood test will be carried out to confirm whether or not you're infected.

You should receive the results of your blood test on the same day. If you have malaria, treatment will be started straight away.

What causes malaria?

Malaria is caused by a type of parasite known as Plasmodium. There are many different types of Plasmodia parasites, but only 5 cause malaria in people.

The Plasmodium parasite is mainly spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which mainly bite at dusk and at night. When an infected mosquito bites a person, it passes the parasites into the bloodstream.

Malaria can also be spread through blood transfusions and the sharing of needles, but this is very rare.

Read more about the causes of malaria and how it's spread.

Malaria risk areas

Malaria is found in more than 100 countries, mainly in tropical regions of the world, including:

Malaria is not found in the UK – it may be diagnosed in travellers who return to the UK from risk areas.

The TravelHealthPro website has more information about the risk of malaria in specific countries.

Preventing malaria

Many cases of malaria can be avoided. An easy way to remember is the ABCD approach to prevention:

Speak to your GP if you're planning to visit an area where there's a malaria risk. It may be recommended that you take antimalarial tablets to prevent infection.

Read more about preventing malaria.

Treating malaria

If malaria is diagnosed and treated promptly, virtually everyone will make a full recovery. Treatment should be started as soon as the diagnosis has been confirmed.

Antimalarial medication is used to both treat and prevent malaria. Which type of medication is used and the length of treatment will depend on:

In some cases, you may be prescribed emergency standby treatment for malaria before you travel. This is usually if there's a risk of you becoming infected with malaria while travelling in a remote area with little or no access to medical care.

Read more about treating malaria.

Complications of malaria

Malaria is a serious illness that can get worse very quickly. It can be fatal if not treated promptly.

It can also cause serious complications, including:

The effects of malaria are usually more severe in pregnant women, babies, young children and the elderly. Pregnant women in particular are usually advised not to travel to malaria risk areas.

Read more about the complications of malaria.