When a person becomes infected with one of the Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria, he or she will not feel sick immediately. For most people, the incubation period (the period between infection and the onset of symptoms) ranges from ten days to four weeks after the bite from the infected Anopheles mosquito; however, the incubation period can be as short as seven days or as long as several years.
Infection with malaria parasites may result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe disease and even death. Malaria can be categorized as uncomplicated or severe (complicated).
Some common early or uncomplicated symptoms include the following:
(Click Malaria Symptoms for information about more severe symptoms that may develop in some cases of the disease.)
Although this doesn't occur very frequently, malaria signs and symptoms may follow a cyclical pattern. In these cases, symptoms last for 6 to 10 hours and then get better. Every two to three days, depending on the type of parasite, the symptoms return.
In order to make a diagnosis of malaria, your healthcare provider will likely ask a number of questions and perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms of the disease. He or she may also order certain tests to help in making a diagnosis.
(Click Malaria Diagnosis for more information about the different tests used.)