Malaria is a plasmodium infection transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito. When an anopheles mosquito sucks blood from an infected person, it ingests plasmodium parasites. These parasites then multiply within the gut of the mosquito and are again injected into an uninfected person the next time the mosquito sucks blood. Malaria is normally caused by any of the four species of plasmodium, namely P. malariae, P. falciparum, P. ovale and P. vivax. The incubation period of malaria, or the time between initial infection and the appearance of symptoms is 7 to 18 days.
Malaria is a serious health problem globally. In 2015 alone, more than 212 million cases and 438,000 deaths were recorded. It is most common in the tropical regions including South America, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Oceania. In cooler regions of the world, malaria generally occurs as a result of people having traveled to malaria-prone countries 1.
Symptom #1: Headache
Headache is one of the most common malaria symptoms. This does not, however, mean that anytime you have a headache you are likely to have malaria. As with headaches occurring due to other issues, a headache associated with malaria arises when the nervous system picks up pain signals within the tissues in the head. It is worth noting that malaria parasites destroy red blood cells which may lead to obstruction of small blood vessels in the head and elsewhere in the body. This can cause headaches.
Additionally, the activities of the body’s defense mechanisms can lead to headaches. Consult a medical professional in case you have a headache that is accompanied by other symptoms suggestive of malaria.