What is malaria?

Malaria is a serious illness caused by a malaria parasite which is transmitted to humans by a special type of mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected person, human blood containing malaria parasites is taken in by the mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected (but not ill) and can then bite and infect other humans. In the human, the malaria parasite infects both red cells and the liver. Infection of the red cells causes haemolysis, resulting in anaemia. It also causes the red cells to stick together which obstructs small blood vessels. Malaria is a common cause of chronic illness and death in many low lying regions where malaria mosquitoes occur.

Malaria is an important cause of death in many parts of southern Africa.

As falciparum malaria is by far the most common form of malaria in South Africa, other rarer forms of malaria will not be considered.

Almost all malaria in Southern Africa is caused by Plasmodium falciparum which is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes (the vector of malaria).

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