What is the Epidemiology of Malaria?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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The epidemiology of malaria is the entirety of contributory factors that, when taken as a whole, define the presence of this deadly disease. Treatment for malarial infection is dependent on its type and severity, as well as the overall health of the individual. The epidemiology of malaria is such that complications can include impaired respiration, cerebral swelling and widespread organ failure.

Malaria is essentially a parasitic disease that is most frequently transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. In tropical and subtropical regions, the ubiquitous nature of malaria necessitates proactive measures to curb mosquito infestation and prevent infection transmission. The mosquito's role in the life cycle of malaria is essential to the epidemiology of malaria.

When a mosquito bites a human with active malarial infection, the mosquito becomes a carrier that will deliver traces of the parasitic-laden blood to the next human it bites. After the tainted blood enters one's bloodstream, it may either fall dormant or remain active and settle in the red blood cells. If the parasite goes dormant, an infected individual may remain asymptomatic for years, meaning he or she does not exhibit any discernible signs or symptoms.


Due to the epidemiology of malaria, the only method for detecting the presence of infection is the administration of a blood test. Results from a blood draw will not only confirm or discount the presence of malaria, but will also ascertain the type and extent of infection. The type of blood panel performed will determine how long it will take to get the test results, which may be anywhere from less than an hour to several days.

The most prominent symptoms associated with the epidemiology of malaria are high fever, excessive sweating and diarrhea. Individuals will also usually demonstrate flu-like signs, including persistent headache, chills and malaise. Severe presentations of malarial infection often necessitate precautionary measures to prevent complications, such as dehydration.

Individuals with compromised immunity, young children and pregnant women are considered at the greatest risk for experiencing severe presentations of malarial infection. Those who travel extensively, especially to areas known to be malarial hot-spots, are frequently instructed to take proactive measures to minimize their risk for exposure and infection. Since malaria may be passed congenitally, pregnant women traveling to areas with known infection are encouraged to be especially careful and take preventive medications as directed.

Treatment for malarial infection is entirely dependent on the type and severity of the illness. The most common treatment involves the administration of antimalarial medication, such as quinine sulfate and chloroquine. Blood testing is essential to determining the proper course of treatment since some parasites demonstrate resistance to traditional, antimalarial medications.


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