A young man standing and smiling in an urban setting.

Malaria is an infection spread via mosquito bites. It causes infection of the liver and blood and can lead to serious illness if not treated quickly. When travelling to high-risk areas, you should take measures to avoid mosquito bites.

Did you know?

  • Malaria causes over 311 million infections and around 900,000 deaths worldwide each year.1
  • In Australia, almost all cases of malaria are acquired while travelling with approximately 500 cases reported every year2.
Two young women laughing with each other, sitting by a lake.

What is it?

Malaria is an infection of the liver and red blood cells caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

People who get malaria can become very sick with flu-like symptoms, including high fevers and shaking chills. If the infection is not treated, it can cause serious illness.

Malaria isn’t commonly found in Australia but travellers can catch the disease while travelling to tropical regions of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Eastern Europe and the South Pacific.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of malaria usually appear within 7 to 30 days, but they can develop many months after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headaches
  • muscle pain
  • generally feeling unwell.

If malaria is not treated quickly, symptoms can become more severe and without prompt treatment it can lead to death.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following malaria infection. If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

How is it spread?

The malarial parasites are found in mosquitoes which tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. The parasites are transmitted to humans into the blood through a bite of infected mosquitoes.

Who is at risk?

You are at risk of malaria if you travel to areas where malaria is present, particularly if you spend time outdoors (including sleeping outside). 

  • All travellers – including those returning to their home country to visit family and friends – should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites

Other people may be at risk of malaria infection. Please speak to a healthcare professional regarding your individual circumstances.

How to help prevent malaria

  • Travellers

    You can help to reduce the risk of malaria by taking the following measures.

    1. Taking measures to avoid mosquito bites.

    • Use mosquito repellents, coils and sprays
    • Use mosquito nets
    • Wear appropriate clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats)
    • Reduce exposure to mosquitoes during times when they bite the most (dusk to dawn)

    2. Taking anti-malarial medications may help to reduce risk of getting malaria.

    Malaria is treated with anti-malarial medication and should be started as soon as possible. The type of treatment can  depend upon:
    • disease severity
    • the type of malaria 
    • where the person was infected
    • any existing medical conditions
    • if you are taking and/or are allergic to any medication
    • if you are pregnant.

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health.

References

  1. Malaria, Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/malaria (accessed October 2020)
  2. NSW Health Malaria Factsheet (2016) http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/malaria.aspx (accessed October 2020)

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190039 Date of GSK Approval: January 2021