Understanding Malaria: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

By September 25, 2023 December 7th, 2023 No Comments

In the fight against infectious diseases, understanding is our foremost weapon. Malaria, a parasite transmitted through mosquito bites, remains a global health crisis, posing risks to millions each year.

Are you familiar with the early warning signs of malaria? How can one shield themselves from this perilous disease?

In this blog post, we unravel the essential information about malaria’s symptoms, prevention, and the available treatment options. Join us as we delve deeper to equip you with the knowledge to safeguard your health and that of your loved ones. Let’s arm ourselves with awareness and foster a malaria-free community. Stay tuned.

Understanding Malaria

Malaria thrives in tropical and subtropical areas. These regions have the climate that supports mosquito breeding. A staggering 95% of malaria cases occur in the WHO African region. Here, children under five are the most vulnerable.

Travellers from malaria-free zones are at risk too. When they visit places with malaria transmission, the danger of contracting the disease is high.

The spread is through female Anopheles mosquitoes. They are the vectors transmitting the parasite from person to person. Out of numerous species, 30-40 are known to carry malaria.

The life cycle of the parasite in the mosquito is complex. It multiplies and develops into a form potent enough to infect humans.

A bite from an infected mosquito starts the cycle. The parasites enter your bloodstream, heading to the liver. Here, they grow and multiply.

In 1-2 weeks, they re-enter the bloodstream. This marks the beginning of red blood cells’ infection and destruction. It’s this cycle that triggers the symptoms of the disease. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the world of malaria in our subsequent segments.

Symptoms of Malaria

The symptoms of malaria typically develop within 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bite. However, depending on the Plasmodium species, symptoms may appear earlier or later. The initial symptoms are often mild and similar to flu symptoms, making it difficult to recognize malaria at this stage.

Common symptoms of malaria include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache 
  • Muscle aches and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Sweating
  • Cough

If not treated promptly, malaria can progress to severe illness often leading to death. Signs of severe malaria include:

  • Cerebral malaria – altered consciousness, seizures, coma
  • Anaemia – due to destruction of red blood cells
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar
  • Respiratory distress 

Plasmodium falciparum malaria carries the highest risk of severe complications if treatment is delayed beyond 24 hours. Seeking prompt diagnosis and treatment within the first 24 hours of symptom onset is crucial.

The Importance of Early Malaria Detection

Malaria strikes swiftly, and its initial symptoms can be subtle yet deteriorating over time. Recognizing them early can be a lifesaver.

Early detection helps in curbing the disease before it escalates. It can prevent severe complications, including organ failure and coma.

But how can you detect malaria early? It starts with being aware of the symptoms. High fever, chills, and headaches are common signs.

Getting a diagnosis as soon as you notice these symptoms is vital. A simple blood test can confirm the presence of the malaria parasite.

Diagnosing Malaria: Rapid Diagnostic Test vs. Microscopic Examination

Accurate diagnosis of malaria is pivotal to administering the right treatment and improving a patient’s prognosis. Two primary methods employed for diagnosing malaria are the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) and Microscopic Examination of blood smears. Understanding the differences between these methods helps in gaining insights into the disease’s identification and management.

Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT)

Rapid Diagnostic Tests are point-of-care tests that detect specific antigens produced by malaria parasites in a person’s blood. They are designed to be simple, quick, and do not require specialized training or equipment, making them suitable for use in remote or resource-poor settings.


  • Speed: Results are available within 15-30 minutes.
  • Simplicity: Requires no specialized equipment or training.
  • Accessibility: Ideal for remote and resource-limited areas.


  • Sensitivity: May not detect low levels of parasites.
  • Species Detection: Some RDTs might not differentiate between Plasmodium species.

Microscopic Examination

Microscopic Examination of blood smears remains the gold standard for malaria diagnosis. Blood samples are stained and examined under a microscope to detect and identify malaria parasites. This method provides information about the type of malaria parasite, the parasite density, and the presence of any complications.


  • Accuracy: Highly accurate with trained personnel.
  • Detailed Information: Identifies parasite species and density.
  • Cost: Generally less expensive per test than RDTs, especially in endemic areas.


  • Time-Consuming: Takes longer to obtain results.
  • Expertise Required: Requires trained personnel and well-maintained equipment.
  • Availability: Not always available in remote or resource-limited settings.

Prevention of Malaria 

Since malaria is spread by mosquitoes, effective preventive measures focus on mosquito control and preventing mosquito bites. The WHO recommends malaria prevention to be prioritised based on risk of infection – highest for young children and pregnant women in high transmission areas.

Recommended ways to prevent malaria include:

  • Indoor residual spraying – Regular spraying of insecticide on walls of homes kills mosquitoes and interrupts malaria transmission.
  • Insecticide treated nets (ITNs) – Sleeping under an ITN significantly reduces contact with mosquitoes. Consistent use of ITNs can reduce malaria episodes by 50%.
  • Mosquito avoidance – Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Wear long sleeves and pants, use mosquito repellants, and ensure screens on windows and doors. 
  • Intermittent preventive treatment – Pregnant women should take recommended doses of antimalarial drugs as prevention in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission.
  • Chemoprevention – Children under 5 years should take preventive antimalarial drugs during high transmission seasons in areas with seasonal malaria.

With high coverage of the above measures, the risk of contracting malaria can be substantially reduced. However, no preventive measure is 100% protective and malaria can still occur.

Treatment of Malaria

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of malaria reduces disease severity and prevents complications and death. Confirmation of diagnosis is done by microscopic examination of a blood smear or rapid diagnostic tests detecting malaria antigens. Treatment depends on the Plasmodium species, clinical status, patient age, and drug susceptibility in the region.

The mainstay of malaria treatment are artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs):

  • Artemether-lumefantrine
  • Artesunate-amodiaquine 
  • Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine
  • Artesunate-mefloquine
  • Artesunate-sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine 

ACTs combine artemisinin with a partner drug having a different mode of action. This improves efficacy and reduces drug resistance. The artemisinin component rapidly reduces the number of parasites, while the partner drug clears the remaining parasites.

For uncomplicated P.falciparum malaria, the WHO recommends ACTs for treatment. Artesunate injection is recommended for severe malaria in adults and children. Additional supportive treatment like blood transfusion, IV fluids, anticonvulsants may be required depending on complications.

Patients with P.vivax and P.ovale malaria require additional treatment with primaquine to prevent relapse. Treatment course should be completed without interruption to prevent recrudescence or relapse.


As we wrap up our blog post, we cannot stress enough the importance of being knowledgeable about malaria.

Understanding this disease deeply is a giant stride in its global control and prevention. Recognizing the symptoms early on is equally crucial.

At our facility in Hinjawadi, we are equipped to help with prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatments. It’s our dedicated mission to reduce the mortality rate linked to malaria.

Embracing preventive measures, like using insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS), are vital steps forward. These strategies are essential in cutting down the disease transmission and its burden.

Together, with your vigilance and our healthcare expertise, we can work towards a malaria-free future. Let’s make malaria elimination more than a hope — a reality, right here from Hinjawadi. Thank you for reading this blog post. Let’s champion a healthier tomorrow, together.

Chief Operating Officer at Grant Medical Foundation, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune

Dr. Sudheer Rai
Dr. Sudheer Rai

Chief Operating Officer at Grant Medical Foundation, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune

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