How is malaria transmitted?

Malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. When you get bitten by a mosquito which carries the malaria parasite, the parasite enters your bloodstream. It is then carried to your liver, where it multiplies.

If a mosquito bites you while you have malaria, it will get infected and it can then transmit the parasite to the next person it bites.

In order to prevent catching the disease you need to avoid insect bites and take antimalarial tablets.

Can you catch malaria from another person?

Malaria is not contagious and you can’t catch it from physical contact with someone who has it. The malaria parasite is not in an infected person’s saliva and it is not passed on from one person to another.

The only way you can catch malaria from a person is through blood transfusions or organ transplants. It is also possible for mothers to pass the parasite on to their baby during childbirth.

Can you get malaria more than once?

You can get malaria more than once. Even if you have had the disease in the past you still need to take precautions when you travel to a malaria area.

People who grow up in a risk area do develop some level of immunity and they are less likely to contract malaria as they grow older. The majority of malaria cases and fatalities occur in children, who are particularly at risk.

It is very common for people who have spent their childhood in a region where malaria is prevalent to believe that they are immune and that they do not need to protect themselves when they go back to visit. This is incorrect - it is dangerous to travel to a malaria area without protection, even if you used to live there. Malaria can be very dangerous and it is important that you protect yourself.

How does malaria spread?

Malaria spreads via mosquitoes. The only mosquito which can transmit the parasite is the anopheles mosquito. It feeds approximately every seven days and it carries the malaria parasite if it has previously bitten someone who had malaria.

Mosquitoes act as a carrier for the parasite and they are responsible for spreading the malaria parasite in risk areas. Therefore, mosquito bite avoidance is an important part of your prophylaxis.

Can you get malaria while you are pregnant?

Pregnant women are particularly at risk from malaria. It is assumed that mosquitoes are more likely to bite pregnant women due to the fact that they have a slightly higher body temperature and breathe slightly faster than women who are not pregnant.

Malaria can cause dangerous complications in pregnant women and it can harm the unborn child. It is therefore important that you protect yourself and your baby if you are planning a trip to an area malaria is endemic to.

Frequently asked questions

Can you catch malaria by kissing?

No - the malaria parasite is not transmitted via saliva.

Can you catch malaria from dirty water?

The malaria parasite can only reproduce in blood and you can’t catch it from drinking water. However, dirty water can carry other dangerous diseases, such as yellow fever or typhoid.

Can you catch malaria even if you are taking malaria tablets?

The risk of catching malaria while you’re taking malaria tablets is extremely low. However, in rare cases preventative treatment can fail. If you experience malaria symptoms you need to see a doctor without delay.