Avoid malaria going overseas

Avoid malaria going overseas

Malaria is a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection spread through the bite of mosquitoes in many tropical and sub-tropical countries. Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and taking certain medications. People planning to visit malaria-affected countries should get advice from their GP or a travel clinic 4-6 weeks before they leave.
Last updated: 19 May 2016

What is the disease

Malaria is an infection of the liver and red blood cells caused by microscopic parasites. There are five types of parasites that cause malaria: Plasmodium ovale, P. malariae, P. knowlesi, P. vivax and P. falciparum. Malaria parasites are spread through the bite of certain mosquitoes. Mainland Australia is free of malaria, but malaria is occasionally present in the Torres Strait Islands. Australians can contract malaria while travelling in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands and parts of the Middle East. Currently, approximately 500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in Australia each year – almost all are in people who have travelled to malaria-affected countries and didn’t take anti-malarial medications.

What are the symptoms

Symptoms of malaria include sudden fever, chills, headache, sweating, nausea, vomiting and pain in joints and muscles. In severe cases symptoms can include seizures, confusion, kidney failure, breathing difficulty and coma. The infection is sometimes fatal. Malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite can be especially dangerous. Malaria symptoms usually develop 9-14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Occasionally symptoms develop weeks or months later. Some types of malaria can re-occur months or years after exposure.