Malaria is a tropical disease. It is spread by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites. In this video, an expert explains how malaria attacks different areas of the body, and what you can do to avoid getting infected.

Learn more about malaria

Transcript of Malaria

(woman) I was coming back from living in Australia

and going to stop off in Thailand on the way home.

Didn't think it was a hot-spot area

and decided it was probably better to...

In two weeks I'd be home, so I didn't bother taking any malaria tablets.

And that's where I got it from.

Malaria is a parasitic infection from a mosquito bite.

It goes to your liver and develops silently for days, weeks or months.

When it leaves the liver it goes into your red cells,

and because it destroys those red cells, you get the symptoms of fever:

headache, chills, muscle aches and pains,

and it can go on to progress to severe disease:

cerebral malaria, coma, kidney failure and death.

When I got back and had some symptoms, I just thought it was flu at first.

I'd start shaking in the middle of the day

and the shaking would be like, almost from your bones.

It was really intense.

Really cold and really shivering.

And you couldn't get warm.

But it wouldn't happen all day, it just happened at some points during the day.

And then, from then on, I'd just be really drowsy.

I'd lost a lot of weight already, which I thought was a bit strange.

And then I started to get delirious,

so I'd go out and I'd start fainting and not being able to see straight

and having to sit down all the time.

(Dr Hill) Malaria gives you fever, chills, headache and muscle aches.

That's similar to many diseases.

And the problem is, sometimes physicians and most often patients,

don't consider this as a potentially serious event.

So if you have travelled and you have these somewhat non-specific symptoms,

you need to do something.

They don't generally come on when you get back,

they come on in the severe form

maybe a week or two or three weeks after you're back,

and sometimes it can be as long as six months to a year.

(Carmen) My boyfriend, who was travelling with me, also had it.

His had come on a few days before, so we knew it was something we'd caught.

Eventually, one day after he'd been to the doctor's a number of times as well,

he got so sick that we called an ambulance.

He couldn't pick himself up. He pretty much couldn't open his eyes.

He was just sweating constantly, shivering constantly.

Every form of malaria is treatable, forever.

There is a myth that once you have malaria you'll never get rid of it.

But I promise you, if you get the right diagnosis and the right treatment,

you can get all malaria parasites eradicated from your body

and it won't be a problem again

unless you travel and don't do the right thing.

As soon as we knew what it was, it was treated,

and it doesn't take that long as soon as you do.

But the kind of most annoying thing was

that it's treated with the antimalarial tablets

they give you in the first place.

So if I had just got those, we wouldn't have had this problem.

(Dr Hill) The numbers of malaria in the UK have been relatively stable.

The majority of those are people who are going back to visit friends and family.

They say, "I grew up in Nigeria and Ghana. I survived malaria."

"Why do I need to take tablets now?"

The challenge is, you lose any immunity you might have developed

growing up in the country quite rapidly,

so when you go back as an adult Nigerian, you are very much at risk.

Much more so than maybe your family that you're visiting.

If you're planning a trip overseas, do your homework.

If there's malaria at the destination,

then go to a travel clinic, go to your GP,

go to a physician, healthcare provider, and see what to do.

Discuss various medications. There are excellent medicines to prevent malaria.

No one should get malaria if they take their tablets.

Also when you're there, do things to avoid mosquito bites:

repellents, protective clothing, sleeping under nets at night.

And if you get back and have a flu-like illness,

make sure you connect that to your travel.

Go to your physician, tell them, "I've just come back from a malaria area."

"Could I have malaria?" Get that test.

It's easy to diagnose it and it's relatively straightforward to treat it.


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