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Malaria in Africa

Anopholese mosquito

Travellers to sub-Saharan Africa have the greatest risk of getting malaria. Most malaria transmission occurs in rural areas, although malaria occurs in urban areas in many countries. Low altitudes with warm temperatures allow for larger populations of infective mosquitoes.

Transmission is generally higher in Africa south of the Sahara than in most other areas of the world.

Malaria in Africa Factors:

  • Time of the year

Seasons with more rainfall and higher temperatures will have more malaria transmission than colder, drier seasons. However, in most tropical and semi-tropical countries, transmission may occur even during cooler months or periods of less rainfall.

  • Type (species) of malaria parasite present in the area

While all species of malaria parasites can make a person feel very ill, Plasmodium falciparum causes severe, potentially fatal malaria. Persons who travel to areas where P. falciparum malaria is present should be extra careful to take their antimalarial drug and to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Night time exposure to mosquito bites

Because the mosquito that transmits malaria bites at night, travelers who are frequently out of doors between dusk and dawn will be at greater risk for malaria.

Health Precautions for Africa Travel

Individual measures, such as taking an effective antimalarial drug and preventing mosquito bites, are the most important factors in minimizing risk. While other risk factors may be difficult to change or avoid, travelers can greatly reduce their risk of malaria by following recommended travel precautions.

Malaria pills; insect repellent; long-sleeved clothing; bednet; and flying insect spray.

Persons who are traveling to malaria risk areas can almost always prevent this potentially deadly disease if they correctly take an effective antimalarial drug and follow measures to prevent mosquito bites.

Symptoms of Malaria:

Despite these protective measures, travelers may become infected with malaria. Malaria symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood cell counts (anemia)
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye (jaundice)
  • If not promptly treated, infection with Plasmodium falciparum, the most harmful malaria parasite, may cause coma, kidney failure, and death.
  • When Symptoms Appear, Seek Immediate Medical Attention

    Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after returning home (for up to 1 year) should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician their travel history.


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Africa Travel Health Pages:

We recommend you read the following Africa health pages:

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