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Malaria not spread by casual contact
January 20th, 2011
04:24 PM ET

Malaria not spread by casual contact

Mosquitos, those pesky insects that feed on human blood, are more than just a summertime nuisance. They are also the source of a very serious public health problem–malaria.  Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by a parasite that infects the mosquito. The infected mosquito transmits the parasite to humans through a bite.

George Clooney contracted malaria on a recent visit to Sudan, the actor told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when a mosquito bites an infected person, the bug takes in a small amount of blood that contains microscopic malaria parasites. When it bites the next person, the parasites mix with the mosquito's saliva, which is  injected into that person.

You can't get malaria from casual contact with someone who's infected. It's not contagious and can't be transmitted sexually. Malaria is preventable and curable, but it can be deadly.

Symptoms usually appear about 10 to 15 days after infection and include very high fever and flu-like illness such has shaking chills, headache, muscle ache and fatigue. You could also have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization, if not treated quickly–within 24 hours, patients can experience severe illness "often leading to death." Early diagnosis is key.

The disease is very common worldwide, but is found most often in tropical and subtropical countries. Here in the United States, about 1,500 cases of malaria are reported each year. The vast majority of these cases are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria is endemic like sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America and South Asia.  Malaria kills about 1 million people a  year worldwide, 89% of those are in Africa.

If you are going to an area where malaria is present, antimalarial medication should be taken early. The disease can be cured with with prescription drugs.


soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. HATTIE

    NOW THAT WE HAVE CONDEMNED TOBACCO, PLEASE USE YOUR TALENTS TO ADVISE THE WORLD ABOUT THE DAMAGES OF ALCOHOL TO THE BRAIN AND OTHER ORGANS. NOT TO MENTION THE DEATHS CAUSED BY DRUNK PERSONS.

    January 20, 2011 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Myself63

      Focus.... This article is about malaria. Focus....

      January 21, 2011 at 04:36 | Report abuse |
    • OYENKELE

      you bet. You can only catch malaria from the mosquito in your garden!!!

      January 21, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
  2. Myself63

    Is this article implying that some people contract malaria while in the U.S. having not travelled abroad? I thought you had to travel to get it. Uh-oh...

    January 21, 2011 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FutureMD

      Not necessarily, since the vector, the Anopheles mosquito, still exists here in the US. However, it's extraordinarily rare, since the parasite that actually causes disease, Plasmodium, does not. The only case I ever heard of people in the US contracting Malaria without leaving the country were two hikers in Virginia. A mosquito bit an infected traveler, which then transmitted the parasites to the hikers. Fortunately for them, they didn't have the worst kind of Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, they had a type that produces the cyclic fever (fever every three days or every four days). A physician recognized that fever pattern as Malaria and began treatment.

      January 21, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
  3. MalariaVictim

    I caught malaria about 20 years ago in Tanzania. I took the anti-malarial drugs, but East Africa has chloroquine-resistant malaria, so it didn't work. The description of the symptoms above way, way underplays what a malaria attack is like and how bad the treatment is. Flu-like symtoms to malaria is like comparing a campfire to a raging forest fire.

    Myself63: Malaria was present in the US before the 1900's, but standing water controls and anti-malarials have pretty much eliminated iit. It's a bit like Black Plague: we still get a few cases a year in the US, but it is very rare.

    A Plug: Bill and Melinda Gates have been donating billions to help eliminate malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa in much the same way it was eliminated in the US. Help if you can. This scourge can be removed from the Earth just like Small Pox.

    January 21, 2011 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. tawn-tawn

    I must have read outdated material. I thought malaria kills around 2 million people worldwide and that there is no cure. I thought that the parasite can become dormant but not cured?

    January 21, 2011 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MalariaVictim

    Tawn-tawn: No offense, but very outdated. The malaria protozoa hides out in the liver and reproduces there. When is reaches a certain level, it explodes out into the bloodstream and causes an attack. For example, mine was 3-day malaria. Reproduces for 3 days, explodes out, vomiting and fever kills it in the bloodstream but not the liver, repeat. For decades, drugs (quinine-based) were taken to kill the malaria as it emerged from the liver. The drugs were basically a mild poison in the blood stream. No drugs could kill the malaria in the liver. New drugs are now taken that poison the blood stream and kill the malaria at the source.
    Also: Malaria is one of the top 5 killers on Earth. I don't know the numbers, but you can imagine that it has to be far more than 2 million a year.

    January 21, 2011 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FutureMD

      I'm a first year med student, and we actually just had an entire 2 hour lecture this week on Malaria in our Microbes course (test tomorrow, which is obviously why I'm procrastinating on CNN). The number in the article is correct, it kills around 900,000 people every year, mostly children in Africa.

      January 21, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
  6. Lydia

    Thank you one and all for the coherent comments about malaria. To those who are trying out their comedy acts, there should be a place for you to post, but this is not one of them!

    January 21, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.