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The key to malaria treatment is starting early. With early treatment, the disease can be cured and its serious effects can be prevented. If treatment is delayed, it can be a severe, potentially fatal disease (especially when caused by Plasmodium falciparum).
The specific treatment that is recommended will depend on:
- The type (species) of the infecting parasite
- The area where the infection was acquired
- The severity of malaria symptoms
- The person's age
- Any other illnesses or conditions
- For a woman, if she is pregnant
- Drug allergies
- Other medications that are being taken.
Treatment always involves medication. The specific medicine prescribed will depend on the factors listed previously.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 300 to 500 million cases of malaria occur and more than 1 million people die of the disease during that period. About 1,300 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from risky areas, many from sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Malaria was eradicated from the United States in the early 1950s; however, the disease is common in many developing countries, and travelers who visit these areas risk getting it.
Returning travelers and arriving immigrants could also reintroduce the disease in the United States. The mosquito that transmits malaria, Anopheles, is found throughout much of the United States. If local mosquitoes bite an infected person, those mosquitoes can, in turn, infect local residents. This is known as introduced malaria.