Tiny Mosquito


The Buzz on Malaria Symptoms

Malaria symptoms, such as headache, joint pain, fever, sweating, nausea and vomiting, can appear flu-like in nature and can easily be overlooked, but failure to diagnose and treat malaria can lead to coma and possible death. Other common symptoms of malaria include back pain, chills, dry cough, enlarged spleen, impaired function of the brain or spinal cord, seizures and loss of consciousness.

The plasmodium parasite
Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite and can only be transmitted by the female mosquito. There are four main types of malaria that can affect humans and there exists certain malaria symptoms specific to each type.

Malaria SymptomsPlasmodium falciparum
The most severe kind of malaria is plasmodium falciparum. It can take between 7 to 14 days for the symptoms to appear. At the onset, the symptoms are flu-like; however, if they remain untreated, they will worsen dramatically and may have a fatal outcome. This type of malaria most commonly occurs in pregnant women, infants, and travelers to high-risk areas.

Plasmodium vivax, ovale, malariae
Death from these three types of malaria is very rare; however, proper diagnosis and early treatment is strongly recommended.

  • The plasmodium vivax symptoms can take approximately 12 to 18 days to appear. This type of malaria is known to sometimes relapse after treatment, but can also stay dormant for long periods of time.
  • Malaria symptoms caused by the plasmodium ovale strain have a much more gradual onset. Relapse is also possible, but much less common than with plasmodium vivax.
  • The symptoms of plasmodium malariae can take up to 40 days to appear and are said to be less severe, but can recur after many years of dormancy.

Malaria in Adults
The first malaria symptoms for plasmodium vivax, ovale and malariae appear as typical flu-like symptoms in adults. The sufferer may feel weak, dizzy and experience vomiting or diarrhea. If the individual has contracted plasmodium falciparum, the symptoms will be more threatening in nature. They can include intense muscle spasms, kidney failure, low urine output (less than 400 ml per day), fluid in the lungs, labored breathing, and frothy sputum.

Malaria in Children
Malaria symptoms can vary in adults and children. Children can exhibit a cough, rapid and shallow breathing, and/or feverish convulsions. If they have contracted plasmodium falciparum, they may experience fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the illness remains untreated, the symptoms can worsen and the child could experience respiratory distress causing flared nostrils, severe muscle spasms, convulsions, and possible coma.

The Cycle
Symptoms that stem from each type of malaria can come in phases and can occur quite suddenly and dramatically. These cyclical symptoms fall in step with the life cycle of the plasmodium parasite. The symptoms may lessen as the parasites die, but as new ones are reproduced and released into the body, the symptoms return. The newly developed parasites resume their destruction of the body’s blood and liver. This cyclical pattern is a major indicator of malaria, yet it may only reveal itself at a later stage of the disease.

Malaria Incubation periods for each type of malaria may vary if a person is taking infection-fighting medication or because some immunity from a previous infection exists. In regions where malaria is prevalent, residents may carry the disease but may not exhibit its symptoms due to an immunity or semi-immunity to it. The severity of symptoms can also vary depending on a person’s general state of health and immune system. The time between a mosquito bite and the onset of symptoms is usually 7 to 21 days, but some types of malaria parasites take much longer to make their way through the bloodstream. When infection occurs through blood transfusion, which is very rare, the time of the onset of symptoms depends on the number of parasites transmitted through the transfusion.

Before traveling to a destination where malaria might be an issue, there are several preventative measures that can be taken to ensure one’s health. Visit a doctor to discuss the possible medications available. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect exposed skin from getting bitten. Use mosquito nets and insect repellents to decrease the chances of becoming infected. Research the site regional malaria information with regard to your destination.


Written by Karen Foster: Karen Foster is the content manager and editor for Tiny Mosquito: Understanding the Mosquito. For more information about mosquitoes, visit her site at www.tinymosquito.com.


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