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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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