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Malaria is a disease that involves a person becoming infected with a tiny parasite. The parasite is too small to be seen with the naked eye, but it is big enough to be visible under a microscope. If you look down a microscope at a blood sample taken from an infected person, you will be able to see the parasite within the person's red blood cells.
How do you catch malaria?
By being bitten by one particular type of mosquito that carries the malaria parasite, in the parts of the world where that particular kind of mosquito is found. (See map @ http://www.map.ox.ac.uk/)
How long before you become unwell?
Typically 2 - 3 weeks, but it can be much longer.
What are the symptoms?
Any or all of the following can signify malaria: fever, headache, aches/pains, tiredness, shivering.
What's happening inside your body?
At the time you were bitten by the infected mosquito, the parasite entered your bloodstream, went to your liver and hid there. A couple of weeks later, it emerged and started entering some of the red blood cells circulating in your bloodstream. It multiplies, shattering some of the blood cells and invading new ones. It is at this point that the symptoms kick in.
How serious an illness is malaria?
It's very serious because of its potential to make a person critically ill in a matter of hours. Few other illnesses have the potential to advance to a critical stage in such a short time.
How do you avoid malaria?
By using a combination of strategies:
- Malaria prevention tablets: take the right kind of tablet in the right kind of way for the part of world you're visiting (we can advise you on this)
- Minimise the amount of mosquito bites to which you're subjected (this involves using a 50% DEET-containing repellent and sometimes a mosquito net at night).
Do garlic tablets or Vitamin B help to stop mosquito bites occurring?
No, unfortunately not. There's no hard evidence to back up the effectiveness of either. Repellents that contain 50% DEET definitely do work however.