Malaria is tropical disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. This parasite is spread to humans through the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito. If malaria is not diagnosed and treated quickly then potentially it can be fatal. The five types of malaria causing plasmodium parasites are as follows:
- Plasmodium falciparum: This is the most common type of malaria parasite and is found predominantly in Africa. This form of parasite causes the highest number of global deaths from malaria.
- Plasmodium vivax: This parasite produces milder symptoms when compared with plasmodium falciparum. Plasmodium vivax is mainly found in South America and Asia.
- Plasmodium oval: This parasite is usually found in West Africa. It is quite uncommon.
- Plasmodium malaria: A rare parasite that is usually only found in Africa.
- Plasmodium knowlesi: This is only found in parts of South East Asia and is very rare.
Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the malaria parasite will enter your bloodstream. Once the parasites reach your liver the infection will begin to develop. From here, the infection will renter the bloodstream and begin to multiply inside the red blood cells. As the infection grows it will periodically cause the red bloods cells to burst, releasing more parasites into the blood stream. It is the bursting of red blood cells that causes the fever symptoms of malaria.
On average it takes between 7-18 days after the initial mosquito bite for the infection to incubate and present the sufferer with any symptoms. However, in some cases it can take up to a year before any symptoms present so travellers should be vigilant for symptoms after returning from their trip.