Each year, WHO and partners unite around a common World Malaria Day theme. This year’s theme "End malaria for good" reflects the vision of a malaria-free world set out in the "Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030".
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito (female Anopheles mosquito) which feeds on humans. Infected mosquitoes carry the Plasmodium parasite. There are many different types of plasmodium parasite, but only five types cause malaria in humans.
• Plasmodium falciparum
• Plasmodium vivax
• Plasmodium ovale
• Plasmodium malariae
• Plasmodium knowlesi
Malaria occurs mostly in poor tropical and subtropical areas. In many of the countries affected by malaria, it is a leading cause of illness and death. In areas with high transmission, the most vulnerable groups are young children, who have not developed immunity to malaria yet, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been decreased by pregnancy.
The World Malaria Report, published annually by WHO, tracks progress and trends in malaria control and elimination across the globe. It is developed by WHO in collaboration with ministries of health and a broad range of partners. The 2016 report draws on data from 91 countries and areas with ongoing malaria transmission.
Malaria is the silent emergency that kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children everyday. Between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk fell by 21% globally. More than 210 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide in 2015. About 1,500-2,000 people are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, usually in travelers returning from endemic areas. Malaria was a serious public-health threat in the U.S. until it was eliminated during the 1920s-1940s. In that same period, malaria mortality rates among populations at risk fell by 29% globally among all age groups, and by 35% among children under 5.
Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that 438,000 people died of malaria in 2015; the vast majority are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Cases of malaria have been reported in parts of three provinces in South Africa where transmission of the disease does not usually occur.
In 2015, malaria funding totaled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the GTS funding milestone for 2020. Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided 32% of total funding. The United States of America and the United Kingdom are the largest international funders of malaria control and elimination programmes, contributing 35% and 16% of total funding, respectively.
When this mosquito bites someone, the parasite is released into his bloodstream. Infection with malaria parasites may result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from absent or very mild symptoms to severe disease and even death. Following the infective bite by the Anopheles mosquito, a period of time (the "incubation period") goes by before the first symptoms appear. The incubation period in most cases varies from 7 to 30 days. The shorter periods are observed most frequently with P. falciparum and the longer ones with P. malariae. Typically, the time between being infected and when symptoms start is 7 to 18 days, depending on the specific parasite you're infected with. However, in some cases it can take up to a year for symptoms to develop. With some types of malaria, the fever occurs in 48-hour cycles. During these cycles, you feel cold at first with shivering. The initial symptoms of malaria are flu-like and include a high temperature (fever),headache, sweats, chills, vomiting, muscle pains, diarrhea and generally feeling unwell.
Source: Malaria lifecycle. Image from Klein 2013.
In the past, many malaria cases, especially among children younger than five years-old, were reported and treated by presumptive diagnosis based on a list of symptoms, most notably high fever. The World Health Organization now recommends a diagnostic test for suspected malaria cases prior to treatment.
The types of drugs and the length of malaria treatment will vary, depending on which high type of malaria parasite has the patient, the severity of the symptoms, the age and the possibility of pregnancy. The most common antimalarial drugs include Chloroquine (Aralen), Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin), Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), Mefloquineand a combination of atovaquone and proguanil (Malarone).
Malaria vaccines are expected to be an important addition to the arsenal of tools in the future. Several vaccine candidates, with different modes of action, are currently in various stages of development to prevent P. falciparum and P. vivax infections.
Malaria is a preventable and curable disease. Awareness and precautions, especially before travelling to an area endemic for malaria, is important for prevention of malaria. Travelers are most susceptible to bringing back infections.
The Five steps for malaria prevention are:
- Awareness of the risk of malaria and the risk of complications.
- Prevention of mosquito bites. Simple measures like wearing covered clothes, using a mosquito net and using an insect repellent helps in preventing bites.
- All travelers and residents of high malaria risk areas are advised to stay indoors especially after dusk and keep doors and windows screened or closed to mosquitoes.
- Antimalaria tablets for prevention of infection.
- Immediate diagnosis after onset of symptoms helps prevent complications of malaria.
Global progress in reducing mortality and morbidity and finally eliminating malaria will be based on countries’ surveillance efforts Malaria interventions need to be embedded in and supported through, a strong enabling environment that can ensure that efforts are expanded in an effective and sustainable manner. There is an urgent need to increase and sustain high-level political commitment and the availability of predictable and long-term financing for malaria programmes.
- WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030.World Health Organization. ISBN 978 92 4 156499 1 (NLM classification: WC 765) © World Health Organization 2015