• Consumer Health: What do you know about malaria?

a close-up of a mosquito on a green leaf

World Malaria Day will be observed on Sunday, April 25, which makes this a good time to learn more about this potentially fatal disease.

Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite of the genus Plasmodium. The parasite is transmitted to humans most commonly through mosquito bites. Because the parasites that cause malaria affect red blood cells, people also can be infected by exposure to infected blood, including from mother to unborn child, through blood transfusions and by sharing needles used to inject drugs.

Signs and symptoms of malaria typically begin within a few weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, some types of malaria parasites can lie dormant in your body for up to a year. Some people who have malaria experience cycles of malaria "attacks." An attack usually starts with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever, then sweating, and finally a return to normal temperature.

Watch: Dr. Rizza talks about malaria, if it's contagious and who's at risk of getting malaria.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stacey Rizza are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: "Stacey Rizza, M.D. / Infectious Diseases / Mayo Clinic."

The greatest risk factor for developing malaria is to live in or visit areas where the disease is common. These areas include tropical and subtropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central America and northern South America. The degree of risk depends on local malaria control, seasonal changes in malaria rates and the precautions you take to prevent mosquito bites.

Learn more about malaria, including potential complications of the disease and prevention measures you can take to keep yourself safe.


For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

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