Malaria is caused by one of four kinds of protozoan parasites. These parasites are typically transmitted through mosquito bites. In rare cases, transmission of the infection occurs from a mother to her unborn child, through blood transfusions, or by reusing an unclean injection needle previously used by a person with malaria. There is generally an incubation period of one week to one month between when a person is infected and when their symptoms begin to show.
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Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) answered
A bite from a parasite-infected mosquito causes malaria. There are five species of Plasmodium (P.) parasites that infect people.Infection with P. falciparum
- P. falciparum is found mostly in the tropics and subtropics (near the equator).
- Infection with P. falciparum can lead to life-threatening complications after the first few days.
- P. falciparum is often resistant to a popular antimalarial medicine (chloroquine) and needs treatment with other medicines.
- P. vivax and P. malariae occur all over the tropical regions of the world. P. ovale is found in western Africa, and P. knowlesi is found in Southeast Asia.
- Infection with P. vivax, P. malariae, or P. ovale is usually not life-threatening, and a person may recover in a month without treatment. But infection with P. knowlesi may be fatal.
- P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale, and P. knowlesi are generally not as drug-resistant as P. falciparum.
- P. vivax P. ovale, and P. knowlesi may stay in the liver, requiring further treatment with medicine to prevent relapses.
Malaria is spread when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites a person. This is the only type of mosquito that can spread malaria. The mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected person and drawing blood that contains the parasite. When that mosquito bites another person, that person becomes infected.
In the United States, people who develop malaria almost always got infected while traveling in parts of the world where malaria is common.
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The process of transmission: In nature, malaria parasites spread by successively infecting two types of hosts: humans and female Anopheles mosquitoes. In humans, the parasites grow and multiply first in the liver cells and then in the red blood cells. Successive broods of parasites grow inside the red blod cells and destroy them, releasing daughter parasites ("merozoites") that continue the cycle by invading other red blood cells.
The blood stage parasites are those that cause the symptoms of malaria. When certain forms of blood stage parasites ("gametocytes") are picked up by a female Anopheles mosquito during a blood meal, they start another, different cycle of growth and multiplication in the mosquito. Only the female mosquitoes are transmitters because they can penetrate the skin of a person; the male mosquito proboscis is not able to pierce the skin.
Other means of transmission: A pregnant woman can transmit the infection to her unborn baby. Malaria may be transmitted through blood transfusions. In the United States, steps have been taken to prevent this type of transmission. Individuals who have visited a malaria-endemic area are prohibited from donating blood for a year after returning from the malaria-infected area, or three years if they have been a resident of the malaria-infected area or have been treated for malaria. Malaria can be detected in the blood of an infected individual through blood testing.
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