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MALARIA

Background
Malaria is a parasitic disease caused by one or more of four Plasmodium species - vivax, falciparum, malariae and ovale. Of the four types of malaria, falciparum is the most severe and can result in death in up to 10% of cases. The other types of malaria are generally non-fatal unless the patient is very young, very old, is suffering from other illness. The disease is transmitted between humans by an infected female Anopheles mosquito.

Many thousands of tourists become ill with malaria each year either during their travel, or during the incubation period of 7 and 30 days, after they return home. The illness is characterised by malaise, fever, chills, headache, rising temperature, nausea and profuse sweating. These symptoms may cease but only to recur within several days.

The incidence and severity of malaria worldwide is increasing and its prevention and treatment is becoming more difficult due to resistance of the parasites to currently available drugs.

Occurrence
Tropical and sub-tropical areas on all continents (except Australia), Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific. Particularly high risk areas are found on the fringes of forests in South America, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Treatment
Primary treatment is the administration of antimalarial drugs. There is no vaccine available for malaria. You should seek medical advice at the first sign of a fever as early treatment is essential in cases of falciparum malaria.

Avoidance
The main way to minimise the risk of malaria infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitos through the application of measures such as wearing loose fitting long sleeved clothing, applying personal mosquito repellent to exposed areas and living in mosquito proof accommodation or using a mosquito net over your bed. The Anopheles mosquito is mainly active between sunrise and sunset. It is also essential to take appropriate antimalarial drugs strictly in accordance with the prescriber's instructions. However, no antimalarial drug regime gives complete protection against the disease.

Quarantine measures
Malaria is not a quarantinable disease in Australia. However, as the Anopheles mosquito is present in parts of northern Australia, action may be taken by public health authorities to minimise the risk of the spread of malaria in local communities if the disease was diagnosed in a traveller.

Please notify any errors to phd.webmaster@health.gov.au

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URL: http://www.health.gov.au/pubhlth/strateg/communic/factsheets/malaria.htm
Last updated on 29 November 2001 by Population Health Division, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing
For further information contact: Population Health Division, phone 02 6289 1555
email: PHD Frontdesk