Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, called "malaria vectors", which bite mainly between dusk and dawn. Female Anopheles mosquitoes pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite to obtain blood needed to nurture their eggs. Inside the mosquito the parasites develop and reproduce. When the mosquito bites again, the parasites mix with its saliva and pass into the blood of the person being bitten.
Malaria parasites multiply rapidly in the liver and then in red blood cells of the infected person. One to two weeks after a person is infected the first symptoms of malaria appear: usually fever, headache, chills and vomiting. If not treated promptly with effective medicines, malaria can kill by infecting and destroying red blood cells and by clogging the capillaries that carry blood to the brain or other vital organs.
According to the latest estimates, released in December 2013, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 (with an uncertainty range of 135 million to 287 million) and an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000). Malaria mortality rates have fallen by 42% globally since 2000, and by 49% in the WHO African Region.
Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria. Malaria mortality rates among children in Africa have been reduced by an estimated 54% since 2000.
There are five parasite species that cause malaria in humans:
Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common. Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly.
In recent years, some human cases of malaria have also occurred with Plasmodium knowlesi – a species that causes malaria among monkeys and occurs in certain forested areas of South-East Asia.
|→||Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.|
|→||In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000), mostly among African children.|
|→||Malaria is preventable and curable.|
|→||Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.|
|→||Non-immune travellers from malaria-free areas are very vulnerable to the disease when they get infected.|