Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite and is spread by mosquitoes. It is more common in tropical countries, such as parts of Africa, although there have been cases reported in the UK.

In recent years, rates of malaria have fallen sharply due to improvements in preventing the spread of the condition. However, it still remains a significant health problem.

Malaria cases continue to be reported in over 100 different countries. An estimated 1,500 British travellers contract the condition each year.

The parts of the world where malaria is particularly widespread include:

  • sub-Saharan Africa (African countries that are south of the Sahara Desert, with the exception of South Africa, such as Angola, Kenya and Nigeria)
  • countries in the northern part of South America, such as Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador
  • countries of Central America, with the exception of Mexico
  • most of the countries in South Asia, such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • most of the countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia

In most of the countries listed above, the major cities and towns are usually malaria-free and the risk is confined to rural areas. However, in Africa (and India to a lesser extent) malaria cases still occasionally occur in towns and cities.

Symptoms of malaria usually appear 10 to 15 days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito. However, depending on the type of parasite you are infected with, it can take up to a year for symptoms to show.

The symptoms of malaria are similar to those of influenza (flu) and include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • sweats and chills
  • generally feeling unwell

Many cases of malaria can be prevented using the ABCD checklist:

  • Awareness of risk. Know your risk of malaria.
  • Bite prevention. Take precautions to avoid being bitten.
  • Chemoprophylaxis. Take the right anti-malarial tablets. As different strains of malaria can be found in different parts of the world, each strain requires a specific medication to prevent it.
  • Diagnosis. Seek immediate medical advice for any symptoms you have.

Taking medicine to prevent malaria is essential for all travellers visiting areas where malaria is a known risk. However, anti-malarial tablets are not 100% effective, so avoiding getting bitten is also important.