FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About Malaria
Complied by: Dr. Watcharapong Piyaphanee
Produced by: Information Leaflet Committee, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University
This information only applies to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, since malaria in different parts of the world may have some specific characteristics.
What is malaria?
Malaria is an infection caused by protozoa and can be fatal. Four kind of malaria parasites infect human: Plasmodium falciparun, P. vivax, P.ovalae and P.malariae. Recently, malaria in monkey (P. knowlesi) has been reported in human also.
Is malaria a common disease? And is there any malaria in Thailand?
Yes, WHO estimates 300-500 million cases of malaria occur and more than 1 million die each year. Most case occur in Africa.
In Thailand, only hilly or forested areas are endemic. There is no malaria transmission in urban areas. Most cases are from the borders especially Thai – Myanmar and Thai – Cambodia borders.
There is no risk in municipal areas or major tourist resorts such as Bangkok, Chiangmai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui.
How is malaria transmitted?
Usually, people get malaria from infected female Anopheles mosquito bites. Only specific species of mosquito can transmit malaria. When the infected mosquito bites, it releases the infective stage (sporozoite) into the human bloodstream. It take some time for the parasite to develop and multiply. After that, the person will have the signs and symptoms of malaria
Because the malaria is found in human blood, it can also be transmitted by blood transfusion, organ transplantation, sharing needles / syringes contaminated with infected blood.
Malaria is not transmitted from person to person like a cold or flu. You cannot get malaria from casual contact with malaria-infected person.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
The symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause pallor and jaundice (yellow coloring of the eyes and skin). Infection with P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, seizure, coma and leading to death.
How soon will a person feel sick after being bitten by an infected mosquito?
For most people, symptoms begin 7 days to 8 weeks after infection. Two kinds of malaria i.e. P.vivax and P.ovalae can remain dormant in the liver for several months up to 4 years.
How do I know if I have malaria?
If you become ill with a fever with chill, headache, malaise, nausea and vomiting during or after traveling in malaria risk area, you should seek medical care. You should tell your healthcare provider that you have been traveling in the malaria risk area. The common diagnostic test is blood exam for malaria parasite.
What is the treatment of malaria?
Malaria is a treatable disease treatment should be done early. The type of drugs and length of treatment depend on which kind of malaria is diagnosed, how severe it is and other factors in each patient.
The important point is that you should be treated by a qualified medical doctor. Over-the-counter drug is risky especially in the border areas, since most of them are fake.
How to protect yourself ?
If you are traveling into the malaria risk area, the best prevention method is to protect yourself against mosquito bite.
Here are some useful tips:
What is the recommended antimalarial prophylactic drug in Thailand?
Chemoprophylaxis is NOT recommended in Thailand. Where malaria is multi – drug resistant. No anti – malaria drugs can fully protect you against malaria. Moreover, you may have unpleasant side effect from the drug. Counseling with a qualified medical doctor is highly recommended .
Other interesting articles about malaria in Thailand from our blog