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JAMA Patient Page
June 2, 2004


JAMA. 2004;291(21):2664. doi:10.1001/jama.291.21.2664

Malaria is a potentially deadly disease caused by infection with the microscopic parasite Plasmodium. Plasmodium is transmitted to humans through bites from Anopheles mosquitoes infected with the parasite. According to the World Health Organization, malaria is present in more than 100 countries—mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Each year there are roughly 300 million cases of malaria, and more than 1.5 million people die of the disease. Children and pregnant women are especially at risk for malaria. The June 2, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about using mosquito nets embedded with insect repellent to reduce the prevalence of malaria.


Symptoms usually appear about 9 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

  • Sudden, violent chills

  • Intermittent fever

  • Sweating

  • Exhaustion

  • Headaches

  • Seizures

  • Delirium


  • Malaria is best diagnosed by looking for the Plasmodium parasites in a blood sample under the microscope.

  • Malaria is treated with drugs that interfere with the parasite's lifecycle or metabolism.

  • If you think you have malaria, seek medical treatment immediately.


Prevention is based on avoiding exposure to mosquitoes and aggressively treating people who are infected. Malaria control programs in many parts of the world are underfunded and ineffective. If you are traveling to an area where malaria is common, take antimalarial drugs exactly as prescribed by your physician and prevent mosquito bites by

  • Closing windows at night if possible

  • Sleeping with a mosquito net, preferably one containing an insecticide, with the edges tucked under the mattress

  • Covering up your body as much as possible with clothing

  • Applying an insect repellant to areas of the body not covered by clothing.



To find this and other JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at

Sources: American College of Cardiology; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations
appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.