Malaria

What is malaria?

Anopheles mosquito

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite. Mosquitoes spread the parasite to people.

Malaria symptoms usually appear within in 7 to 30 days but can take up to one year to develop. Symptoms may include high fevers and shaking chills, flu-like illness. Without treatment, malaria can cause severe illness and death.

Who is at risk?

The mosquitoes that spread malaria are found in Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific (See maps: Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere). Travelers going to these countries may get bit by mosquitoes and get infected.

About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States annually, mostly among returned travelers.

What can travelers do to prevent malaria?

Travelers can protect themselves from malaria by taking prescription medicine and preventing mosquito bites. There is no malaria vaccine.

Take Malaria Medicine

Check your destination to see if you should take prescription malaria medication. Depending on the medicine you take, you will need to start taking this medicine multiple days before your trip, as well as during and after your trip. Talk to your doctor about which medicine you should take.

Travelers should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
    • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Find an EPA-registered insect repellent that’s right for you.
    • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • When using insect repellent on children:
    • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
    • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

If you are bitten by mosquitoes, avoid scratching mosquito bites and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.

stethoscope

If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.

Traveler Information

Clinician Information